California to give 40% of vaccine doses to vulnerable areas

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 11:00 AM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 01:38:22-05

California will begin setting aside 40% of all vaccine doses for the state's most vulnerable neighborhoods in an effort to inoculate people most at risk from the coronavirus more quickly.

The doses will be spread out among 400 ZIP codes with about 8 million people eligible for shots.

Once 2 million vaccine doses are given out in those neighborhoods, the state will make it easier for counties to move through reopening tiers that dictate what businesses can be open.

Dr. Mark Ghaly says those neighborhoods have lower rates of vaccination but often are the most at risk from coronavirus.

According to the state's plan, communities that fall into the lowest 25% of the California Healthy Places Index (HPI) will receive double the amount of allocated vaccines compared to the rest of the state for at least two weeks.

"(The California Healthy Places Index) is describing communities that have higher rates of chronic diseases and are disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other chronic diseases that increase their risk of complications and dying of COVID-19, says UCSB Director of Health Equity Initiatives, Dr. Melissa Smith

On the Central Coast, parts of Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Isla Vista fall into the lowest HPI quartile.

Executive Director of the Mixteco Indigena Community Organization Project (MICOP), Arcenio Lopez, explains what this means for some of the communities he represents.

"We are very excited to reach out to the indigenous farm workers more specifically to Paso Robles and San Miguel where there is a big representation of indigenous Mixteco farm worker community," he says.

Lopez says access to internet registration and emails for vaccinations can sometimes be a challenge for the workers he represents. Santa Barbara County Public Health addressed some of these issues at a farm worker vaccine clinic in Santa Maria on Sunday.

"As we just saw in the vaccine pilot in Santa Maria, ensuring all vulnerable communities have access also includes language and cultures, so we look forward to working with the Santa Barbara health department to ensure vaccine doses are distributed as equitably as possible," says CAUSE policy advocate, Rebeca Garcia.

Santa Barbara County Public Health confirmed these areas will qualify for the increase and are awaiting plans to be able to make next steps.

San Luis Obispo County Public Health also said in a statement that they are currently working on how to implement the governor's announcement and are continuing to work toward getting the vaccine to populations that are adversely impacted by COVID-19.