SAN JOSE — As he cleaned and repaired pools across South Bay backyards this spring, Mauricio Lopez spoke almost daily with his employees about getting COVID-19 vaccines.
Lopez’s brother and co-owner of Ernie’s Pool and Spa, Rene, died from the virus on Feb. 10th. His death was a “wake-up” call for the other two dozen workers — mostly fellow immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala — to get their shots, Mauricio Lopez said.
“This is serious. We have to do this,” he told them.
But as the weeks dragged on, none of his employees could get an appointment.
Then, one afternoon in April, a client suggested that Lopez reach out to a Bay Area group that was helping essential workers get vaccines. Overnight, more than half of Lopez’s employees, and most of his family, were scheduled for shots.
It was the doing of a small cadre of volunteers who call themselves the “equity fairies.” Formed in response to the persistent inequities in California’s vaccine rollout, the group of five volunteers stays up late at night, helping people to navigate the convoluted sign-up system for getting the shots. In about six weeks, they’ve scheduled nearly 300 appointments in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, primarily for Latino residents working in essential jobs.
“The workers, the supervisors, individual folks and families, they’re desperate to get the vaccine but are dissuaded by this maze of access, and have been outright told by My Turn or other sites, ‘We don’t have any vaccines, or wait your turn’,” said the volunteers’ leader, Rosalie Gutierrez Ledesma, a San Jose native. “Six weeks later, they’re still waiting.”
Ledesma, who is of Mexican descent, started the volunteer work after her own experience trying to get vaccines for her elderly parents. As she scoured websites, filled out questionnaires, and joined a Facebook group called Bay Area Vaccine Hunters, she was frustrated by a system that gave a disproportionate advantage to mostly White, affluent people with the time and technological savvy required to snag the limited appointments available, and the means to travel outside their neighborhoods to get shots.
“These folks would post, ‘Hey, I just got vaccinated at Mexican Heritage Plaza’” in East San Jose, Ledesma said. “I honestly got enraged. They live in my neighborhood, in Almaden. That’s really what catapulted me, like, I’m taking whatever action I can.”
To date, just 24% of vaccinations statewide have gone to the Latino community, which accounts for nearly 40% of California’s population and 56% of COVID-19 cases, according to the California Department of Public Health. About 3.7% have gone to Black residents, who make up about 6% of the population. In Santa Clara County, where the “equity fairies” have focused their efforts, about 14% of vaccinations have gone to Latinos, who make up about 25% of the county population and 50% of coronavirus cases.
“You constantly heard of people getting appointments, right?” said Sam Ulloa, who runs a Latino-focused financial services group and whose employees got their shots through Ledesma. “But there wasn’t any communication. … It was a function …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News
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