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Community leaders push for vaccine equity, call for partnerships with health providers

Two weekend vaccine events offer alternate model to reach communities of color

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As the pressure to speed up vaccine distribution increases, many leaders of communities of color worry minorities will be left behind. They’re getting ahead of the problem, offering solutions to both state and health providers.

Eric Guerra, councilmember of Sacramento’s 6th district, Rachel Rios, executive director of La Familia, and Stephanie Nguyen councilmember of Sacramento’s 4th district and executive director of Asian Resources Inc., came together Friday to bring attention to equity in vaccine distribution.

“We need to make sure that our efforts in getting vaccines out and education about vaccinations is connected community and trusted partners,” said Guerra.

He said lack of partnership has already hit communities of color hard in the pandemic.

“What we saw happen last year, at the start of COVID, was a lack of immediate connection with communities and interested partners led to misinformation and, unfortunately, a rapid spread disproportionately to many of these communities,” explained Guerra.

“There is a push to get the vaccination out as quickly as possible and we want to assist in that effort,” added Rachel Rios. “And we want to assist so that there isn’t an inequitable distribution of that.”

Guerra touted a new approach to reaching that goal.

“This weekend is a bit of a success story in the fact we were able to start local vaccination sites in our affected communities.”

There will be two events in the coming days where vaccines will be distributed at two centers local communities already know and trust. One event partnered with the Sacramento Department of Health, the other with Dignity Health. Unfortunately, all appointments were snatched up right away.

“They were full before we even advertised it and we’re looking forward to be able to serve the community with more events,” said Rios

These community organizers have a message for both government and healthcare providers.

“We are here as your partners and your allies to help you make sure you’re being intentional about reaching out to the communities,” said Rios.

Stephanie Nguyen said they want to keep the ball rolling.

“We just need more folks like Dignity Health to partner with us and let us know that they want to offer the vaccines, the doses. And that if we can come in and be that partner and do whatever it is that’s necessary that doesn’t require the certification or the medical schooling, we can do all of that," said Nguyen. "We can provide the translation. We can provide the interpretation. We’ll be even doing the traffic if we have to.”

Guerra echoed that sentiment.

“This is only the start," explained Guerra. "The fact we’re getting a response rate this quickly shows that our education efforts have worked. But we have to continue moving forward with educating…We do not want to lose this momentum and lose the public trust, which is why we’re calling on our state leaders and our health partners to make sure that vaccines are available in these vulnerable communities with working with trusted partners."

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