Fresno officials working to get more Latino, Black residents vaccinated for COVID-19

'The sooner we get everybody vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal'
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- More than six million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide, but Fresno city officials say there are still barriers when it comes to providing shots for communities of color.

"We know who is being most impacted by the virus," says Genoveva Islas.

Isla runs the Cultiva La Salud vaccination clinic in Orange Cove, where her focus is to bridge the gap.

"We are also in a very rural community. Orange Cove is one of the furthest most within the county of Fresno, and so rural community residents also do have a lot of access to healthcare and medical care" Islas says.

The California Department of Public Health has now released a preliminary look at who has received COVID shots so far. 32% went to white people, 16% to Latinos, 13% to Asian Americans, and only 3% to Black people. Experts say the numbers are disproportionately low for communities of color.

"I don't think we are surprised by the data, we knew going into this there was going to be some hesitancy in our communities of color," says Shantay Davies-Balch, the director of the African American COVID-19 Coalition.

"We know there is Historical medical mistrust in the community. We know that there have been instances where Black folks have been used in research and science without being informed about what's happening."

Which is why the African American Coalition is not only partnering with African American leaders, but also targeting areas with direct outreach - like the launch of the vaccine site at Gaston Middle School - in a zip code with some of the most vulnerable population.

Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria says the city is invested in the COVID equity project.

"Brown and Black communites are dying at a disproportionate number and so we have to, one, increase access to those access points and then two, also do proper education and outreach once those access points are in the neighborhood that those folk are living in," says Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria.

The City of Fresno councilmembers are pushing for a suspension of bus fares during the pandemic so that Fresno residents can be transported to those facilities to get vaccines. Plus they are creating a paper form submission for those without internet.

"The sooner we get everybody vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal and that's really the goal here," says Fresno City Council president Luis Chavez.
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