Fresno County strengthens efforts to reach vaccine equity

Local News

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – The Fresno County Department of Public Health is strengthening its efforts to vaccinate the most vulnerable in disadvantaged areas – with community-based organizations playing a key role.

“Every week when we look at where we place doses, the location of the clinics, equity lens is always applied,” said Fresno County’s Joe Prado, responsible for leading the vaccine distribution effort. “If you’re more than 30 minutes from a vaccine dose, we want to mitigate those issues.”

A vaccine site at Gaston Middle School in Fresno is set to open on Thursday. The partnership with the African-American Coalition has been key, Prado said.

“We know where we need to place our vaccination sites and Gaston is a great example of why it’s necessary in the lens of equity because it is a health burdened area. At the same time, we have a great partner in the African-American coalition and being able to get the health education outreach out there.”

The site is one of many efforts the county is moving forward with to reach those who are the most vulnerable.

In the last week and a half, Fresno County Department of Public Health partnered with Cultiva La Salud, Saint Agnes Medical Center, and Fresno State nursing students to administer 850 doses to Orange Cove residents.

“We help to get the word out, we help to register, we’re trusted because we’ve been organizations that have been advocating on behalf of disadvantaged community members,” said Genoveva Islas, the executive director of Cultiva La Salud.

The state now provides data on vaccines administered based on race and ethnicity. The initial 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.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday during his visit to Coachella Valley said those initial numbers show an overrepresentation of healthcare workers, but acknowledged more needs to be done in terms of equity.

“We have to truly deliver on that and we have to be held to account,” Newsom said.

Islas said when thinking about equity, it’s important to consider the lack of medical providers in disadvantaged neighborhoods and the lack of internet access.

“When they are requesting people to register online, it’s a disadvantage for people who don’t have internet access or don’t have technology and these points create real disadvantages that end up being barriers,” Islas said.

Reaching equity when it comes to vaccine distribution is not something that happens quickly, Prado said.

“The issue with the digital divide is significant. And so we slowed up and we actually started making thousands of calls and have been able to fill thousands of slots just talking to people on the phone and doing it for them,” Prado said.

Between medical providers and the county’s vaccination sites, around 30,000 doses were administered last week, and the hope is around 30,000 will be administered this week as well, Prado said.

“We were on a call with the state yesterday and they are changing the allocation to where we had discussed before. Where it’s 65 and over, but they’re also including food and ag, education and also emergency services,” he said.

Prado said he hopes the county will see increased allocations in the coming weeks. In the meantime, they continue to build infrastructure to grow their capacity to administer doses.

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