Shared Harvest Fund hosts chat about distributing vaccines to communities of color

By Holly Jenvey

Shared Harvest Fund recently hosted a virtual Fireside Chat to discuss how to prevent future inequities with the vaccine rollout. Shared Harvest Fund is a digital platform and skills-sharing marketplace that transforms employee engagement, community impact and helps eliminate the burden of student debt.
According to LA County’s public health website, 1,958,547 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in LA as of Feb. 25. Administered second doses of the vaccine total 600,497.

Reports say out of residents 65 years and older who received the vaccine, 29% are Pacific Islander, 18% are Asian, 17% are white, 14% are Latino, 9% are Native American and 7% are Black. A UCLA study also noted that Blacks and Latinos are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white residents.
The fireside chat featured a panel of medical and health specialists including Tracey Veal, a postdoctoral fellow with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health; Dr. Roberto Vargas, director of the Health Policy Pillar of the Urban Health Institute at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science; Paula Pearlman, who worked at Kaiser Permanente for 35 years and is a volunteer medical director at Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation center in the world; and Fabian Garcia, director of government relations at Homeboy Industries.

The panelists addressed the inequity in distributing the COVID-19 vaccination, why communities of color are skeptical to take it, and what must be done to provide better access.

Pearlman pointed out that educating communities and getting the correct knowledge out about the vaccine is key.

“Knowledge is empowering,” Pearlman said.

Garcia added that people are getting information from noncredible sources, which contributes to their hesitancy in getting the vaccine.

Vargas brought up the importance of providing information about any adverse reactions of the vaccination. He said there should be transparency without chastising people when it comes to getting the vaccine.

“We have to be transparent and honest,” Vargas said.

Many households don’t have Internet, which is part of the reason why there has been a lack of access to vaccines. According to a press release from lamayor.org, Black and Latino households are one-third as likely to have internet as white residents. Pearlman also said that older residents aren’t getting information about the vaccine because they aren’t connected to digital devices.

Pearlman added that churches and religious leaders sharing information about vaccines would also be helpful. She also pushed for more Black and Latino decision makers in vaccine distribution, explaining that there need to be more people that represent underserved communities. There also needs to be a massive public relations campaign, including celebrities and influencers, who would be willing to take the vaccine and show their fans that it works.

“I want to see LeBron James with a shot in his arm,” Pearlman said.
Vargas concluded by pointing out that everyone needs to remain vigilant of the virus by continuing to wear masks, wash their hands and take all necessary precautions.

“The vaccine will be the long-term solution,” Vargas said.

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