FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – Just weeks ago, appointments at the Fresno Fairgrounds vaccination site were filling up quickly. Now, the demand has slowed down and plenty of appointments are available via MyTurn.
“We’re definitely still seeing the system not being fully utilized,” said Joe Prado, who is leading the vaccine distribution effort in Fresno County. “We definitely have ample supply. Ample slots available for people to go out and get vaccinated.”
Prado on Tuesday said that the Fresno Fairgrounds has the capacity to administer 2,500 doses a day, but last week, they were averaging 1,000 doses a day.
Fresno County community leaders with the COVID-19 Equity Project say more mobile vaccination clinics are needed.
“I do think that so much of our approach does have to shift when people aren’t seeing that as a way that they’d like to receive a vaccine, we really have to continue to see what our other strategies are,” said Dr. Tania Pacheco-Werner with the COVID-19 Equity Project and the co-director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute. “One of the biggest ones is to go into their own neighborhoods to do those vaccination clinics or go into the places that they frequent. Like grocery stores or the swap meets. Things like that.”
In other parts of the state like in the Bay Area, people are having trouble finding an available appointment. Pacheco-Werner said what’s working in other parts of the state may not be working in the Central Valley.
“We always say that the San Joaquin Valley is unique. That the way our communities work are unique and our challenges are unique. So I can definitely see how mass vaccination sites have been a success in other places around the state, but here in the Central Valley, we need a different approach,” Pacheco-Werner said.
According to the state’s most recent data, Latinos make up 38.9% of the state’s population but just 22.4% of those who have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine in California. African-Americans make up 6% of the state’s population but just 3.2% of those who have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine in the state.
The COVID-19 Equity Project is making the difference in Fresno County.
Shantay R. Davies-Blach with the African America Coalition said about 35% of people who have gotten vaccinated at the Gaston Middle School site have been African Americans.
The Central Valley is home to many vulnerable communities. And community leaders say many people just want their questions answered.
“What people actually really want more of is an opportunity to ask questions,” said Genoveva Islas, the director of Cultiva La Salud.
She said ensuring people have a good experience is essential in reducing vaccine hesitancy in the community. And that means clinics where there are people who speak multiple languages.
“For me, part of the hesitancy is just the unknown about what’s gonna happen when you get vaccinated. When the unknown is addressed by the positive experiences that relatives and friends have had, I think that is reassuring,” Islas said.
She added that people having a choice in what vaccine they can have could also help with hesitancy.
“Choice is another really important aspect. People should not be limited in selecting which of the available vaccines they can have,” Islas said.
Cultiva La Salud is having a mobile clinic on April 20 in Parlier in partnership with Fresno State and Saint Agnes Medical Center. Those interested are asked to register by calling (559) 258-1355, (559) 445-5532, or (559) 450-7770.