Abraham has spent the past few months calling government officials to demand vaccine doses for blacks and browns in hard-hit southern Los Angeles, developing vaccine sites that welcome walk-in patients, hosting mass vaccination events with entertainers and deploying mobile vaccination fleets. to neighborhoods where residents do not have transportation.
Abraham, director of vaccines at the Kedren Community Health Center, said he now vaccinates 5,000 people a day and fills a void in a community that might otherwise be neglected.
“We broke down all the barriers that stood between people and their vaccines,” Abraham told CNN. “No appointment, it̵
“Vaccinating our most affected community across our state is the right thing to do and the fastest way to end this pandemic,” Newsom said last month.
A ‘defective’ rollout of the vaccine
Dr. Manuel Pastor, director of the University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute, said that while the state is improving its efforts to vaccinate more colored people, the initial vaccine programs were “deeply deficient.”
Pastor said many of the sites did not consider important hourly workers who are largely colored, residents without internet or smartphones and families without vehicles.
“It was a system designed to produce inequality in the vaccine,” the pastor said.
Pastor said that if California wants to close the racial gap in vaccinations, it needs to engage more employers so people feel safe taking jobs, building more locations on public transportation routes, and appointing trusted messengers who can convince Latino residents of , that the vaccine programs are not linked to immigration authorities.
Kiran Savage-Sangwan, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said California needs to maintain its focus on equity in the coming weeks because she expects many residents will run to get the vaccine appointments when all adults are eligible.
If there is adequate vaccine supply for all adult residents, the state should work with community partners to get the shots to neighborhoods with lower vaccination rates, she said.
“Unfortunately, we are not seeing progress in closing this gap, so it’s something we really want to see the state look at to better understand why we are not seeing a change over time there,” Savage-Sangwan said. “Because we would expect a given where we have put a significant proportion of the doses.”
Meet people where they are
Grassroots organizations across the state have emerged to help residents order vaccine appointments, many of which are only available online through a lengthy enrollment process.
“All the existing systems depend on a good internet connection, a printer and what one needs to know that these vaccines are available,” Schwandt said. “Even the smartest people around us were fighting, so we knew there was going to be a big hole.”
The group uses a hotline and email address that people can contact if they need help booking a shot or understanding state qualification levels. Schwandt said the group has about 400 volunteers who speak at least nine different languages and that together they have helped more than 10,000 people book appointments.
But with vaccinations that are wide open, Schwandt hopes the group can increase its volunteer efforts, as a flood of people seeking vaccines could create more barriers for underserved communities.
“It’s just getting harder for the people we’re trying to help – we do not expect our work to fall back,” she said.
Some black communities in the Los Angeles area continue to see differences because there are no pharmacies or health facilities within a reasonable distance, and many families do not have Wifi access, said Rhonda M. Smith, CEO of the Black Health Network.
“There are many more rules and patient protection in place these days,” Smith said. “But there are some people who are just resilient and they will never do that.”
Meanwhile, Abraham continues to launch more vaccination programs in south Los Angeles, so when people of color are ready to be vaccinated, they have easy access. He recently partnered with Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science – a historic black college – to create a vaccine program in Compton, a city with a large black population.
Abraham said closing the gap in vaccine capital would require health care providers to meet people in church parking lots, parks, beaches and workplaces. The challenge, however, is that Kedren needs more doses, volunteers, vehicles and capacity to store more vaccines, he said.
“There are a lot of moving parts, and it’s very complicated, it’s frustrating,” he said, “but that’s the commitment we’ve made, and that’s what we need to do to do this right.”