COVID-19 vaccine

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Ever since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began, every week has brought news of extremes, with success stories followed by supply problems and other hiccups in access and distribution. This week was no different, and included supply disruptions due to winter storms as well as an unexpected boost from the governor.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Armando Celestino walks between rows of grapevines in a Madera County vineyard. He’s handing out small zip lock bags to farm workers filled with hand sanitizer, masks and information on the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Celestino works with Centro Binancional, a community organization that assists those who speak, indigenous languages like Mixtec and Zapotec.

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Farm workers across the San Joaquin Valley are showing high levels of interest in getting the COVID-19 vaccine but they say information about where to go is scarce. 

 

But there is plenty of medical mistrust within communities of color and the reasons are complex. We talk about why.

 

Madera Community College and UCSF Fresno

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that among Black Americans, only 42% intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Many have suggested that the reluctance to get vaccinated among Black Americans and other communities of color is a function of the mistrust that some in those populations have in the health care system. To better understand this issue, Valley Edition Host Kathleen Schock spoke with Dr. Kamell Eckroth-Bernard, a vascular surgeon with UCSF Fresno, and Angel Reyna, President of Madera Community College. 

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

When news of the pandemic first reached the men incarcerated at Avenal State Prison in central California, inmate Ed Welker said the prevailing mood was panic. “We were like, ‘Yeah, it’s going to come in here and it’s going to spread like wildfire and we’re all going to get it,’” he said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

 

Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the San Joaquin Valley will get a major boost to its COVID-19 vaccine allocation. That’s due in part to the region’s food and ag workers, who now are also receiving some priority access to the vaccine.

Valley counties will now be receiving thousands more doses each week, amounting to an average increase of 58%, thanks to a change in how the state is distributing vaccines.

 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: How the business community in Fresno’s Tower District has adjusted to the pandemic, and the incoming tenants that could change the face of the neighborhood. 

Plus, Black business owners are finding strength through community as they work to adapt their operating models to the pandemic.

 

We also hear about the Fresno State Art Song Festival, where poetry, musical composition and singing converge. 

 

County of Kern Facebook page

 

Shipments of more than 15,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine promised to the San Joaquin Valley have been delayed this week, thanks to severe weather that has snarled shipping and distribution networks in the central and eastern parts of the country.

“All of our doses for last week were held up because of weather,” or about 6,000 doses, said Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan during a media call on Friday.

Early on in the pandemic, the state of California put an emphasis on equity in its pandemic response, requiring specific levels of testing and outreach in disadvantaged census tracts in order for counties to advance through the state’s reopening blueprint.

Now, obstacles to vaccine access have introduced the potential for new disparities, and newly published state data shows what many have feared: that the vaccine isn’t being distributed equitably among racial and ethnic groups.

When Governor Gavin Newsom stopped in Fresno earlier this week, he was widely anticipated to announce that Fresno would be the site of the state’s newest mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic. The clinic, which he had alluded to earlier in the week, is expected to be run in partnership between the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and it would bring in thousands of vaccine doses each day beyond what the county already receives from the state.

On this week's Valley Edition: A small initiative in Fresno County to help a few elderly women stay safe during the pandemic keeps expanding. Now, Save Las Senioras delivers groceries to over 60 recipients in rural areas.

Plus, we remember Cookseyville, one of the Valley’s most celebrated Black settlements. 

 

And one year after fire destroyed Porterville’s library, a handful of tiny libraries are springing up in its place. 

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

During a visit to Fresno on Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom said vaccinating the Central Valley against COVID-19 is a “top priority.”

 

Though Newsom was widely expected to announce a new federal government-partnered mass vaccination clinic in the city during his stop at the Fresno Fairgrounds, he instead shared that the state had selected a COVID-19 testing site at Reedley College to be converted into a community vaccination clinic.

 

 

So far, San Joaquin Valley residents have received nearly 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine—a sum that may sound high, but falls far short of the average per capita rate reported elsewhere in California. Plus, for the second week in a row, a low vaccine supply has kept many of the Valley’s mass vaccination clinics either open far below capacity, or closed entirely to people seeking to receive their first dose.

Dora Garza, 82, walks out of the Madera County Health Department on a windy day in February. She’s just received her first dose of the vaccine and she says the shot was quick and painless.

“It didn’t hurt and I would like everybody to get it that you know, needs to have it,” she says.

Garza says she got the vaccine because she has a younger sister who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past two months. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Restaurants have had to ride the wave of pandemic shutdowns and reopenings for the past ten months. We look at how one business in Madera is surviving and what’s happening to its employees.

 

Plus, when a local newspaper closes shop, how does that affect voting behaviors and political corruption? 

 

And we’ve got another segment of StoryCorps San Joaquin. A grandson remembers his  pioneering grandmother who spent her summers living and working in a fire lookout station.

In a surprise move this week, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted shelter-in-place orders for our part of the state, even as San Joaquin Valley residents continue to die of COVID-19 by the hundreds each week. The decision came as a surprise to health officials in at least Fresno County, who said they appreciate that case numbers are finally trending in the right direction but warned against reckless behavior that could drive them back up again.

Madi Bolanos / Valley Public Radio

 

Advocates say meeting farmworkers at their workplace to distribute vaccines is the best way to ensure all farmworkers get the vaccine. Fresno County began it’s soft rollout of vaccines to farmworkers on Monday, with 50 ag workers receiving their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at their workplace, Pappas Family Farm in Mendota. 

In addition to onsite workplace vaccine centers, County officials said in a press conference at the site, the local health department is working with rural clinics to distribute the vaccines. 

 

 

Employees of Pappas Family Farms in Mendota received their first round of COVID-19 vaccines Monday.  

Melesio Medina is one of 50 employees who received the vaccine. He’s worked as a mechanic at Pappa’s for five years. Medina said the vaccine means he can continue to provide for his family. 

“It’s a great opportunity. There's people out there that were fighting for it,” Medina said. “They want it, so I’m just grateful I gotta take it.” 

On a Thursday afternoon in mid-January, Woodland Elementary School’s cafeteria is transformed into a vaccine center. The room is sectioned off into check-in points with nursing staff and a waiting area for newly-vaccinated staff members. 

 

 

Bill Peterson, 78, is greeted by a nurse as he walks in. He holds onto his health information packet as he walks up to the cafeteria stage, behind the curtain. Nurses are stationed there with vaccines. Peterson sits down, joking with them before he rolls up his sleeve. 

Community Medical Centers

 

Fresno County has the capacity to administer at least 30,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine weekly, according to county health officials, and yet its two mass vaccination clinics will not be open to new appointments next week. The recent revelation of no national vaccine stockpile has disrupted local supply, in Fresno and throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

 

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