Coronavirus

New Covid-19 Vaccination Grant Targets Hard-to-Reach Santa Cruz County Communities

Santa Cruz County received a $1 million grant to Salud Para La Gente from the Health Resources and Services Administration

The old Watsonville City Hall has housed a mass Covid-19 vaccination center. — Tony Nuñez/The Pajaronian

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—As the delta variant of Covid-19 sweeps across the world, and as health care providers urge everyone to get a vaccine, a new grant is expected to help several local organizations reach people who are hesitant to do so, or who are having trouble accessing them.

The grant to Salud Para La Gente from the Health Resources and Services Administration, totals nearly $1 million, said Salud CEO Dori Rose Inda.

The grant will help reach people throughout Santa Cruz County who are either hesitant to get the vaccine, or those who are facing hurdles such as a lack of health insurance or transportation and language barriers. It will also help distribute accurate information about vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 52.6% of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated. 

One under-vaccinated group is 20-30-year-olds, Inda says.

According to a study by UC San Francisco researchers, one in four young adults say they will not get the vaccine, one-third of whom say they don’t trust it.

The picture is somewhat brighter in Santa Cruz County. 

Some 72% of the people in South County have gotten their vaccines, compared to 70% in the rest of the county, said Santa Cruz County Health Services Assistant Director Jennifer Herrera.

The higher number in South County—which has communities that traditionally have less access to health care in general—comes due to expanded outreach in those areas, Herrera says.

This includes people with less access to health care and low-income families, she said.

“Our community benefits the most when we can invest where the community is going to be the most impacted,” she said. “We are understanding where the disparities are in the community, and investing resources there because it will have a broad effect on the entire community.”

Inda says the grant will help nearly a dozen organizations, including Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance, the city of Watsonville, Community Bridges, Second Harvest Food Bank and Watsonville Law Center.

As part of these efforts, organizers will bring pop-up vaccination clinics and distribute accurate vaccine information to places where people gather, such as Ramsay Park.

“I think we have done exceptionally well in making vaccines as accessible as possible to those who are ready and able to schedule an appointment, and come at that planned time,” Inda says.

Herrera says that nobody has any plans to force anyone to get vaccinated. She pointed out, however, that businesses and indoor events are increasingly requiring customers and employees to get theirs to enter.

“It’s helpful for you, it’s helpful for your community,” she says. “Covid-19 is here for the long haul. We’re going to have to ebb and flow with this virus as it evolves, and in the meantime, we want to keep schools open, we want to keep industries open, our economy open, and we want to connect with one another.”

County Takes Over Downtown Site

The OptumServe mass vaccination site at 250 Main St. in Watsonville closed on Aug. 29 but it will reopen on Sept. 9. The closure is necessary, county officials say, to transfer operations from OptumServe to Santa Cruz County Public Health.

When reopened, that vaccine center will have the following hours:  

  • Thursdays, 9am–1pm 
  • Fridays, 2pm–6pm 
  • Saturdays, 9am–1pm 
  • Sundays, 2pm–6pm 

Vaccination appointments can be made at MyTurn.ca.gov. While appointments are encouraged, walk-ins will be accommodated when possible. The site will provide Pfizer,  Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.  

During this closure, vaccinations remain widely available at many locations throughout the county. Visit santacruzhealth.org/coronavirusvaccine or www.santacruzsalud.org/coronavirusvacuna to find a vaccination location. 

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