COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic Brings Hope to East San Jose

The recent arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Mexican Heritage Plaza marked the start of a new day in East San Jose, an area more affected by the pandemic than any other in Santa Clara County.

San Jose councilor Magdalena Carrasco said it was important to have a vaccination center “in the middle of a district” with the county’s most COVID-19 cases and associated deaths.

“They flock to this center because it is a trustworthy center. It’s an accessible center, ”said Carrasco. “This can save the community.”

As people lined up to take pictures on Tuesday, Jessica Paz-Cedillos, executive director of the School of Arts and Culture based on the square, said she could see people’s smiles through their masks and in their eyes. “They cried because they were so emotional,” she said.

The mood was in sharp contrast to the fear people typically have on Wednesdays when on-site COVID-19 tests are done. Paz-Cedillos said that if they don’t test negative, people tell her they are positive and cannot show up for work.

Arturo Alvarez will receive his COVID-19 vaccine at the Mexican Heritage Plaza on Thursday. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Arturo and Teresa Alvarez joined one of five ranks of residents who wanted to receive the vaccine.

Arturo Alvarez said he was a little nervous but didn’t flinch when he got the shot. “It didn’t hurt,” he said, smiling triumphantly. “I feel saved.”

Arturo Alvarez said he had lost family members to the virus and that his brother and cousin had been hospitalized. He said he missed seeing his children including a 10 month old grandson he and his wife never held in their arms.

“The vaccine means life and family,” said Teresa Alvarez, who had a kidney transplant two years ago. “It means being able to live and be with loved ones.”

The walk-up clinic is provided by Gardner Health Services in partnership with the Santa Clara County Health Department and School of Arts & Culture, and provides admissions for approximately 500 people daily on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first vaccinations were given on January 21st.

COVID-19 vaccines are available to those aged 65 and over and to healthcare workers. Individuals must provide proof of age or work before receiving a vaccine. Distribution begins on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. until they are used up.

After receiving the recordings, residents wait 15 to 30 minutes while the nurses watch them to make sure they don’t experience any reactions.

When people return to their second recordings in the next two weeks, the website will boot up to 1,000 people on both days. Around 1,400 people were vaccinated in the site’s first three days of operation.

Although the city and county are providing funding for testing and vaccination costs, Gardner Family Health Network chief executive officer Reymundo Espinoza said he made a leap and provided staff before funding for the site was secured.

“Let’s do it. We’ll find the money later,” he recalled.

The nonprofit, he said, got county help to run tests and Gurnick Academy nursing students volunteered.

Paz-Cedillos says it costs $ 15,000 to $ 21,000 a week to run the clinic alone, including security guards, janitors, and Gardner nurses. The equipment is additionally, e.g. B. $ 27,000 for a tent during last week’s rain storm.

Sources of funding include grants from counties and cities as well as donations from foundations. The county is providing the vaccines and giving the Si Se Puede collective a grant for public relations and testing in people’s homes, said Paz-Cedillos.

The organizers say they want to add extra days, but it depends on the availability of vaccinations and staff.

This afternoon, Carrasco, Santa Clara County Supervisory Authority Cindy Chavez, and Congregation member Ash Karla are planning a press conference to ask Governor Gavin Newsom to give priority over vaccines to the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Paz-Cedillos said in Santa Clara County that this is the Latino immigrant community. According to Santa Clara County Public Health, the 95116 zip code where the Mexican Heritage Plaza is located has 10,827 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, roughly double the county’s average.

“The percentage of people who had COVID-19 and the percentage who died from it are concentrated in five zip codes in East San Jose,” said Paz-Cedillos. “They make up 31% of the cases in the county.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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