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In a recent Ethnic Media Services Zoom meeting, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s Department of Public Health shared a multi-colored map of the county which graphically illustrated the fact that there were fewer vaccination sites in the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

She assured the journalists that the situation would change soon.

“We have a shared set of values now, with the new administration,” Ferrer said. “They have an interest in equity and getting the vaccine in the arms of the right people.”

The director explained that her office is coordinating with federal, state and local partners to open new sites and assist during the pandemic. Ferrer said that as vaccination efforts expand, community based organizations (CBOs) have a huge role to play. Community workers have made a difference by distributing masks and sanitation bottles in addition to informing and really listening to local communities about their concerns as the fight against COVID-19 continues.

“We have to ask for your patience as we work on these strategies,” she said. “Partners need additional resources to help us vaccinate. We need to help them find additional resources.”

Ferrer, who works once a week at a vaccination site, admits that the biggest problem is not the community’s hesitancy to take the vaccine, but getting access to getting the shot. She has heard how hard it can be to get an appointment.

“I sense that frustration,” she said, knowing the county’s system is not easily navigated by those who are not computer savvy, or don’t have the time. “People can’t spend hours and hours in front of a computer if they’re working two jobs.”

The director praised the CBO-led sites that have walk-up registration tables and the pharmacies offering the vaccination. Eligibility groups are set by the state, she explained, and the eligible group will change again on March 15.

“Right now people are asking for better access,” Ferrer said. “And I think they’re right in asking for better access.”

Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were tested before the surge, she explained, while the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was tested during the surge and in South Africa, where there are known variants. Because of the scarcity of vaccine doses, neither vaccine sites nor residents are able to choose which to receive.

“I think it’s really important to know that all three vaccines are effective in preventing serious hospitalizations and deaths. I suggest you take whichever vaccine is offered,” Ferrer said. “It will save your life.”

She looks forward to the coming weeks when additional doses are available for the public.

“Once we get almost everyone vaccinated, it’s going to allow us to return to more normal than we have seen,” Ferrer said. “This is a very powerful tool that offers a lot of prevention.”