By: Bo Tefu, California Black Media
Sprawling parking lots at California State University Los Angeles and Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in “Oaktown” are two locations in California where the state is set to conduct focused vaccine pushes for education workers. The effort is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s health equity plan as he prioritizes the reopening of schools.
According to the equity-centered plan, as of March 1, 10 % of the state’s vaccine supply is dedicated to K-12 educators and staff. The mobile sites and vaccine drives will focus on “counties and school communities weighted by equity, including the proportion of students from low-income families, English learners, and homeless youth,” state officials said.
“Our top priority is getting students back in the classroom as safely and quickly as possible, and the expanded access to vaccines will build on the momentum and confidence that we can do so with urgency,” Gov. Newsom said.
Candidates eligible for the vaccination include teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, childcare workers, and site-based administrators.
State officials have committed to providing 75,000 vaccinations each week at mobile sites set up to administer vaccines for registered school staff statewide. The health equity plan aims to prioritize vaccine access for communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. The equity plan also addresses the ethical issues presented by reports of individuals from outside target communities, including educators at a Los Angeles-based private school, skipping the line to get early vaccinations from medical providers.
Gov. Newsom said the state officials are working closely with medical providers, healthcare administrators, and local organizations to speed up vaccine delivery across California.
“The education professionals who nurture and support our children deserve to be and have been prioritized for vaccines, and I am proud to accelerate those efforts in all 58 counties,” Gov. Newsom said.
According to state officials, prioritization is based on occupational health exposure. Eligible candidates will receive single-use codes to schedule vaccine appointments. The health equity plan is an integral addition to Gov. Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” plan which initiated plans to vaccinate education workers in January.
So far, 35 state counties have vaccinated education workers based on supply since the launch of multiple mobile sites statewide.
Efforts to Counter the Privilege Gap that Leads to Skipping Ahead for Vaccines
According to administration officials with the California Health and Human Services Agency, part of the state’s plans to promote vaccine equity includes partnering with community organizations and understanding demographic data for appropriate vaccine access statewide.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said the state is working with trusted local organizations for outreach and education campaigns to engage underserved communities.
“We work hard to make sure we don’t have blind spots and we’re paying attention to where we can make improvements,” Ghaly said.
Public health officials are also moving forward with plans to work closely with third-party administrators to provide vaccines in communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
The state can achieve health equity by, “simply doing more for those who’ve been disproportionately impacted. So, they are not overlooked and that is something that we are deeply committed to whether it’s on age or race, or sexual orientation, gender identity,” Ghaly said.
“Administration officials have also put metrics in place to help measure the impact of its outreach and education campaigns in California’s Black and Latino communities. Equity efforts by the state include keeping a “keen eye on the data” and “making adjustments” to address the privilege gap in California’s health care system,” he said.
Affluent people receiving early vaccinations discloses the important equity issue, “we know that we have more work to do in some communities than others,” administration officials said.
State lawmakers have prioritized school staff in efforts to accelerate and support the legislative proposal to reopen schools, “as safely and quickly as possible,” Gov. Newsom said.
The state has launched online tools for accountability and transparency to counter the imbalance of vaccine distribution and also provided routine testing for more than 1,000 schools in California.
Although the legislature’s proposal is a step in the right direction, “it doesn’t go far enough or fast enough,” Gov. Newsom said.
“I look forward to building on the growing momentum to get our schools open and continuing discussions with the Legislature to get our kids back in school as safely and quickly as possible,” Gov. Newsom said.