SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Teresa Parada is exactly the type of person that fair-minded California officials say they want to vaccinate: She is a retired factory worker who speaks little English and lives in a hard-hit part of Los Angeles County. .
But Parada, 70, has waited weeks as others her age flock to Dodger Stadium or receive the coronavirus vaccine through large hospital networks. The place where she normally receives medical care, AltaMed, just got enough supply to vaccinate her later this month.
Parada said television reports show people lining up to receive vaccines, but “I see that only vaccines go to Anglos.”
“It is rare that I see a Latino there for the vaccine. When will it be our turn? she said.
Governor Gavin Newsom has repeatedly called equity his “North Star” for vaccinating a diverse state of nearly 40 million. It partnered with the federal government to establish mass vaccination sites in working-class neighborhoods in Oakland and Los Angeles. And it’s a big part of the reason he commissioned insurer Blue Shield to centralize California’s mosaic vaccine system, asking the Kaiser Permanente hospital chain for help.
Yet officials at community health centers that serve as a safety net for the poor in the U.S., focused on health equity, say they are not getting enough doses for their patients, at-risk residents who the state needs to vaccinate.
In California, nearly 1,400 of these centers offer free or low-cost services to approximately 7 million people, many in communities with a higher concentration of low-income families and few providers who accept Medicaid, known in California as Medi-Cal. Many of his clients speak a language other than English, work long hours, lack transportation, and want to go to healthcare professionals they trust.
Dr. Efraín Talamantes, chief operating officer for AltaMed Health Services, said it was disheartening to see initial doses go elsewhere as his patients continued to test positive for the virus.
“There is a clear disparity whenever there is a resource that is limited,” he said.
Most states are looking for ways to distribute a limited supply of vaccines, resulting in a hodgepodge of methods in the absence of a federal plan. Tennessee is among the states that dispense doses based on county population, while California allocates them by eligible groups, including teachers and farm workers. Free for all has allowed people with more resources to obtain scarce vaccines.
Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, said it seems obvious that the best strategy for getting vaccines to the most affected communities is to go to places where residents already they receive care. But big box managers tend to think that community health centers are less efficient because of their smaller size, he said.
“We are not very imaginative in the way we administer vaccines efficiently. Our only creative solutions are to build mass vaccination sites and perhaps give people preferential access to those sites, ”he said.
As California has stepped up vaccination efforts through mobile and pop-up clinics in churches, workplaces and schools, state data shows that relatively few vaccines have reached Latinos and Blacks compared to their populations.
African Americans have received 3% of vaccine doses, while they account for 6% of the state. Latinos, who make up 39% of the state, have received 17% of the doses.
Blue Shield officials say they plan to keep health centers that are already administering vaccines open, but clinics are concerned they are not getting enough doses.
State vaccine spokesman Darrel Ng said the governor’s plan for equitable vaccination includes setting aside vaccines for “disproportionately affected communities and ensuring that providers serving these communities are part of the network.” It said in a statement that it includes sending mobile clinics to places like black churches.
Andie Martinez Patterson, vice president of government affairs for the California Primary Care Association, said that while large-scale healthcare systems can vaccinate people quickly, they likely won’t reach target residents.
Community health centers have worked hard to persuade their patients to get vaccinated, said Alexander Rossel, executive director of Families Together of Orange County, adding that his center has inoculated 95 percent of its patients 65 and older. plus.
Health centers watched with dismay as the vaccine for healthcare workers initially went to larger hospitals in December. They then watched as the wealthiest and most Internet-savvy English speakers with time to browse web portals and drive long distances for appointments flocked to the vaccination arenas.
When Orange County began opening large-scale vaccination sites in mid-January, community health centers also requested doses, said Isabel Becerra, executive director of the Orange County Coalition of Community Health Centers.
“We don’t have transportation. We do not speak English. We do not understand the technology that you are asking us to use to register and queue. So, can we vaccinate the population aged 65 and over in the comfort of their own facilities? ” she said.
Jodie Wingo, interim president of the community health association for Riverside and San Bernardino counties, said member clinics were increasing to inoculate more than their 500,000 patients. But now they only get a few dozen doses at a time.
“Everyone is working for fairness, but it doesn’t seem fair. Not at all, ”he said.
AltaMed, in Los Angeles and Orange counties, recently began receiving 3,000 doses per week from the two counties. The supply should allow clients like Parada, who is originally from Mexico, to receive their vaccine this month.
AltaMed will send a vehicle to take her to a clinic to receive the injection that will protect her when she goes out, with a double mask, to buy for the family.
“I am the one who has to leave. I have to protect myself, ”he said.