Church, CalOptima Provides Free Tests, Vaccines
By Dianne Anderson
Before Omicron, the big news this time last year was that COVID-19 looked under control, the numbers were dipping and freedom from masks and social gatherings seemed within reach.
It didn’t play out like expected.
For that reason, Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana and CalOptima continued outreach last Saturday for those who may have been on the fence about their free tests and free shots, the first, second, or the booster.
Slowly but surely, Pastor Ivan Pitts believes headway is being made as word gets around that the shot is safe.
“People can get testing kits here. We are at ground zero trying to continue to press forward with getting people vaccinated,” he said.
The Black population in Orange County is small, but he is encouraged to see the numbers running higher than average for vaccinations compared to other counties.
Early on, Pastor Pitts took the lead and got the vaccination first in his family. Since then, everyone came on board. He said his wife was understandably reluctant about the kids at first, but all three are now vaccinated, including his two children over 18 and younger son 13, who asked for the shot.
His household is doubly vaxxed and boosted with his youngest set to be boosted soon.
“I have been very vocal publicly and privately in the pulpit and the parking lot with my stance, that the vaccine has been politicized because it’s been politicized,” he said. “It’s been demonized, it’s just another wedge issue that divides the people of the community.”
At the beginning, legitimate questions demanded answers, such as the rapid vaccine development, which he believes was adequately explained by scientists many times over. The vaccine formulation, at its base, has been around for years before being tweaked to the current virus.
Another natural reluctance stems from the Tuskegee Experiments and historic medical abuses, but this time around, he said the vaccine is not just targeting Black people, it’s for all people. At his church, he hopes to host vaccine opportunities every other month going forward. Above all, he wants the community to base their decisions on trusted information sources.
“Don’t let random social media or even the main media be the influence without checking the facts.
“Check the Mayo Clinic, the CDC website, the UC system, University of Alabama, ‘Ole Miss.’ They will have credible information that you can trust,” he said.
Last week, Black Women Rally reported that 45 Black people died of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, which reflects a steep decline, down 50% from the prior week. The organization said LA County COVID-19 masking orders and guidance are effective and should remain in place until Black cases and deaths are at the lowest since the pandemic began.
“Although Black new cases decreased by 50%, the number of cases were still higher than at any time during the Delta surge. More Blacks died last week, and COVID-19 is the leading cause of death across LA County with older and unvaccinated residents most at-risk of severe illness and hospitalization,” they wrote.
In a joint statement, Dr. Jerry Abraham and Rev. Dawnesha K. Beaver of Kedren Community Health in South-Central Los Angeles stated the large gap in California between Black vaccinations and other groups of color has serious consequences.
“In our state alone the death rate from COVID-19 for Black people is 16% higher than that of any other demographic. That is a number that we refuse to take lightly,” they said in response to recent cumulative statistics at www.covid19.ca.gov
Other hurdles involve the homeless, who didn’t have an address to receive free tests and left out of the distribution process. The elderly and disabled also experiencing barriers, which they are trying to bridge the gaps through a homebound vaccination effort.
But they also say testing, tracking and mandatory reporting are critical to controlling the pandemic by preventing skewed data. Positive cases must be accurately identified in the community.
COVID-19 deaths may be trending down, but they stressed now is not the time to get comfortable. Masks and social distancing slows the spread, particularly in the wake of the next variant, which they say could come in a matter of months.
The next frontier for the Black community will be reaching the younger children from five to 11 years, which they anticipate will increase as the vaccine is also being approved for six months to age four and expected sometime this spring. Still, the community lags behind.
“Here at Kedren we feel that there needs to be a balance between looking forward and remembering that there are still many who have not even gotten their first round of vaccinations,” they said.
The community must also prioritize their regular general and mental health doctor checkups, even during the pandemic. They said that pre-existing health issues and appointments should never be ignored, such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes.
“We believe there is always more that can be done and we will continue to keep doing all we can to keep expanding access until everyone has a truly equal opportunity to maintain and improve their health,” they said.
According to the CDC, over 140,000 U.S. children have lost a parent or caretaker to COVID-19.
For more information on SBC upcoming vaccine clinics, email email@example.com
or call 714.741.0590
For more information on COVID disparities, see https://covid19.ca.gov/equity/
For more information, see https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccination-demographics-trends