Amid anti-Asian violence, San Jose Vietnamese residents advocate COVID-19 vaccines

Despite fears of anti-Asian violence hanging over their heads, some Vietnamese residents lined up as early as 4 a.m. to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a new mobile clinic this week – a chance to fight a virus defend that infects them disproportionately.

“We initially expected about 700 people, but now it’s about 1,000,” said MyLinh Pham, CEO of Santa Clara County’s Asian American Center. She organized a mass vaccination event in the heart of the city’s Vietnamese community within days of 475 doses – but had to find a few hundred more after the early afternoon leak.

Hundreds of people crowded the Grand Century Mall parking lot to get a shot – and quickly ran down the sidewalks in front of the San Jose mall.

Overwhelmed volunteers also acted as security as people at the registration desks constricted and passed the low warning tape. Young people, elders, and shopping mall clerks, most of them had one thing in common: They were Vietnamese-Americans from the Little Saigon neighborhood.

Santa Clara County’s Asian American Center, MyLinh Pham, hosted and hosted the vaccination event on the Sunday in front of the Grand Century Mall. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Vietnamese residents had the highest confirmed COVID-19 case rate among Asian Americans in Santa Clara County between June 1 and December 3, 2020.

Fortunately, data from Santa Clara Healthy Families serving Medi-Cal members in the county showed their Vietnamese customers 65 and older had the second highest vaccination rate in the Asian-American and Pacific islander communities at 73%.

AAPI as a whole has the highest vaccination rates per breed according to the county’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard.

However, the aggregated data of the district lacks a complete picture of the vaccination rates in the individual communities marked as “Asian”.

“We are actually pleading with the county to disaggregate the AAPI data,” said Sarita Kohli, CEO of Asian Americans for Community Involvement. “When you put it all together, you get a particular picture, but when you analyze it, it’s a completely different picture for the various AAPI subsets.”

A county spokesman blamed California’s vaccine registration system for the lack of data beyond the all-encompassing Asian designation, and said the state was not collecting that information.

“In general, the high vaccination under AAPI is great, but are there any bags that are not vaccinated?” Said Huy Tran, a board member of the Vietnamese-American Round Table in San Jose. “It becomes very important for us to see on a smaller scale.”

He said the high vaccination rates among Vietnamese residents showed that misinformation about COVID-19, which was widespread in 2020, has subsided.

San Jose-based Kohli Health Clinic has received more than 3,800 doses of vaccine from the county since January.

“The city of San Jose has helped us identify neighborhoods where the elderly may live and people may have difficulty accessing transportation,” she said. “They advertise us in a targeted manner, they may put up flyers in certain parts of the city where authorized community members live.”

Kohli said her organization is hiring health care volunteers to reach out to residents of the Filipino, Vietnamese and Indian communities.

After the Vietnamese residents, the Filipino community was hardest hit by COVID-19 infections among the AAPIs.

Vaccination rates for Filipinos older than 65 years are 57% as of March 17, based on results from Santa Clara Healthy Families.

People gather at a mass vaccination event held in front of the Grand Century Mall in Santa Clara County’s Asian American Center on Sunday. Photo by Vicente Vera.

South Bay MP Evan Low also praised the vaccination rates among Asian Americans based in the county.

“I hope we keep getting a shot in each arm so we can go beyond the pandemic in the coming months,” Low told San Jose Spotlight. “The AAPI community is in pain with the rise in hate crimes, but that shouldn’t make us protect ourselves from fear.”

Pham also hoped the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes wouldn’t stop elders from getting vaccinated – luckily, she said, plenty came for a poke at the Grand Century Mall last weekend.

“I loved seeing so many seniors come out, but it also saddens me that so many young people came so early and (seniors) had to wait longer,” she said. “But after we had planned this just a few days ago, everyone’s participation was so amazing.”

Kohli said people could look at the data and say that Asian Americans are over-represented in the number of people vaccinated. She attributed this to the number of Asian Americans represented in the first eligible vaccination stages.

“If we look at the district population who are over 65 years old, 30% are Asians. Not only that, 45% of the health care workers are also Asians,” said Kohli, citing the center for economic and political research.

Hua and Duc Thaiau got their vaccine at the Grand Century Mall last week. They have been married for 40 years and were fortunate enough to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine together.

“I’m nervous about the side effects they say on the news, but I hear good things about Johnson and Johnson,” said Hua Thaiau.

After Duc Thaiau was vaccinated, he said he hadn’t felt any initial pain or discomfort in his arm. Same goes for Hua.

“He says there is no pain now,” said Hua Thaiau, “but wait until you go home.”

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.

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