Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 5, 2021
We need creative approaches to solve these problems and get the vaccine to those most in need.
SAN PEDRO, Calif. – Today, Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán encouraged Governor Gavin Newsom to create a plan to ensure that underserved areas and communities of color are not left behind during the vaccine distribution process.
In a letter delivered to Governor Newsom today, Congresswoman Barragán wrote, “Considering the fact that communities of color are at the greatest risk of exposure, are more likely to be essential workers, and have hospitalization and death rates that far surpass their proportion of the population, there needs to be a focus on getting the people in these communities vaccinated.”
Representing one of the poorest congressional districts in California, Barragán has seen firsthand how the pandemic is devastating underserved communities.
Among her recommendations, Barragán wrote, “The state should consider earmarking shipments of the vaccine to be delivered directly to providers in underserved communities with the highest rates of infection and mortalities, including community health centers who serve underinsured and underserved communities.”
Full text of the letter is below:
February 5, 2021
Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor of California
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Newsom,
I am deeply concerned about the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to underserved areas and communities of color. While the COVID-19 crisis affects every Californian, it is the latest disease to infect and kill communities of color at higher rates than people in the rest of the population. My district stretches from San Pedro and the Port up through Watts, covering the Harbor and South Los Angeles. As someone who represents one of the poorest districts in California, I have seen firsthand what this crisis is doing to my community, especially those who are low-income and do not have access to the services they need to stay healthy and pay their bills. Districts like mine need more resources to make it through this pandemic.
As was stated by Former CDC Acting Director Dr. Richard Besser during a recent television interview, our focus needs to be on ensuring that the right people are being vaccinated. Considering the fact that communities of color are at the greatest risk of exposure, are more likely to be essential workers, and have hospitalization and death rates that far surpass their proportion of the population, there needs to be a focus on getting the people in these communities vaccinated.
In my district, many of my constituents do not have access to adequate transportation, which makes it extremely difficult when vaccine doses are diverted from retail pharmacies to megapods that are farther from their homes. Many of my constituents are essential workers who are unable to spend hours a day refreshing their computer screens, or on the phone trying to schedule an appointment. They cannot take a day off of work to drive across town for a vaccination. These same constituents are also more likely to have inadequate access to internet or to be older community members who have difficulty navigating technology.
We need creative approaches to solve these problems and get the vaccine to those most in need. For instance, mobile units can be brought to public housing or other high-density residential facilities that are home to seniors and other high-risk populations. The state should consider earmarking shipments of the vaccine to be delivered directly to providers in underserved communities with the highest rates of infection and mortalities, including community health centers who serve underinsured and underserved communities. Call centers that help people sign up for vaccine appointments need to increase the number of hours a day they service patients, including weekends and holidays.
Partnerships with community health centers, faith-based groups, and community groups would also help outreach efforts and address hesitancy concerns. By leveraging their relationships with the local communities, we may be able to not only have a more equitable outcome, but also build the trust in our communities that need investment. We also want to make sure any daily leftover doses are administered to those within the neighborhood of the vaccination site, targeting high-risk patients with chronic conditions. This effort will take a huge investment, but one that is worth it. Spending dollars now to ensure equitable distribution will save lives and help end the generational losses we are seeing within families.
While we cannot wait to address this inequity, the potential of a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson provides an additional opportunity to achieve equity and help California flatten the curve.
I encourage you and your team to create a plan to ensure that underserved communities and communities of color are not left behind during the vaccine distribution process. I also encourage your team to begin the very important process of data collection so we can track who is getting access to the vaccine.
Thank you again for your attention to this pressing issue. Know that I will continue to push for all the federal assistance we can get so you have the tools and resources you need to achieve equity. The community I represent needs more resources and increased access to the vaccines, and I look forward to working with you to make that a reality.
Nanette Diaz Barragán
Member of Congress
Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington
 At This Hour with Kate Bolduan; CNN January 26, 2021.