FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The COVID-19 vaccine site at Fresno’s Gaston Middle School opened its doors Thursday – with the goal of reaching the most vulnerable.
“We’re also prioritizing 93706 because again it’s about access,” said Shantay Davies-Balch, the director of the COVID-19 African American Coalition. “We do know that there’s equity and access issues, we want to prioritize folks in this zip code to make sure they have access to the vaccine in their neighborhood.”
The state provides data on vaccines administered based on race and ethnicity. The numbers show that 32.7% of doses have gone to white people, 16% to Latinos, 13% to Asian-Americans, and 2.9% to Black people.
Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. And trusted leaders and community-based organizations are now playing a role in reaching vaccine equity.
“It’s a matter of really just getting who are our community leaders, who do people trust and who do they respect, and then let’s engage with folks and answer their questions. There’s nothing to hide. Let’s just talk about the facts. Let’s talk about the science and give people the opportunity to ask questions,” Davies-Balch said.
She said the goal was to administer 250 doses on Thursday and another 250 on Friday. If supply allows, another 2,000 next week.
Centhy Hansford was one of the residents to receive the first dose of the vaccine on Thursday. Her daughter Natasha Tate went with her.
“I feel relieved. Because we’ve been trying to protect her. She’s the matriarch of our family. We’ve all been very protective, so just relief,” Tate said.
Their family has experienced firsthand the effects of the virus.
“I did actually have COVID sometime back, but I made it through that,” Hansford said.
Tate said their family in their household contracted the virus, but thankfully, no one was hospitalized.
“It did run through our household. We all had it. She’s actually Type 1 diabetic and then with her age, luckily none of us had a fever, no hospitalizations. It did hit her the worst out of all of us,” Tate said.
With the Gaston Middle School site, Davies-Balch said equity is the top priority.
“We’ve been working in close partnership with the county to really look at health disparities and understand comorbidities and making sure that we are in a location in the community where folks have already established trust. This school is the heart of the community,” Davies-Balch said.