By JACK SHU
Given the continued disparities in vaccine distribution in the County, on April 13 the City Council officially made reaching racial equity in vaccination rates a priority. In an action item I proposed with Councilmember Baber and supported by the rest of the Council, La Mesa seeks to utilize Juneteenth (June 19), a day symbolizing emancipation from slavery in the United States, as a goal to achieve vaccine equity.
Based on the data from County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, minority communities are receiving the vaccine at a disproportionately lower rate compared to the rest of San Diego despite being affected the most by COVID-19. Many minority leaders state that insufficient technology and local vaccination sites, structural racism, language barriers, and hesitation among many groups to trust the vaccine provide some explanations for the disparity in vaccination rates.
An effective strategy may be collaborating with trusted community members to spread information to minority groups about the COVID-19 vaccine. The City hopes to partner with community leaders and organizations, such as faith groups, educational institutions, and businesses in order to facilitate the spread of information about the vaccine to groups who may be struggling to access COVID-19 resources.
Specifically, we expect that schoolteachers will help distribute vaccine information to the families of students; that business leaders in areas low in vaccination rates provide insight on how to reach vulnerable populations; and that all organizations in La Mesa ask their members to promote the vaccine to those who need it.
The City is pursuing this community-based approach to achieve vaccine equity so that everyone in La Mesa is involved and no one is left behind. While social media is sometimes effective, ultimately we will reach those who need the vaccine most through individual communication — by daughters speaking to their parents, by grandsons speaking to their grandmothers, and friends speaking to each other. We need an “all hands on deck” approach.
For citizens of La Mesa, our journey to ending the COVID-19 pandemic does not stop at receiving the vaccine; we must help public health providers spread information and get members of our community vaccinated so that we end the pandemic for everyone.
— Jack Shu is a La Mesa City Council member.