SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — In Santa Clara County, vaccination efforts are in full force with the county’s top focus on equity, especially for the hardest-hit communities in the South Bay and East San Jose, where many Latinx and front-line workers reside. 

County officials say outreach efforts have been effective with more than 16,000 residents getting vaccinated through the county’s door-to-door initiatives, with the help of several community organizations. 

“I think in terms of our vaccine distribution for many months we had a scarcity issue, we have now sufficient vaccines, we’re getting more vaccines every week which has essentially meant that our vaccine distribution is definitely more equitable, we have a lot more appointments available at all of our sites,” says Dr. Rocio Luna, Santa Clara County Deputy Executive. 

Milestone: 1M Santa Clara County residents vaccinated, but some still hesitant

According to county data, 1 million residents have received their first vaccine dose, and more than one-third of residents eligible 16-years-old and up are now fully vaccinated. 

County officials say less than 10% of the population say they’re still hesitant about getting the vaccine, with roughly 30% saying they have a hard time getting vaccinated due to several barriers. 

“What we’re seeing now is a drop-off, people are working, kids are going back to school, families are getting back to normal and so we’re going to pivot our strategy,” says Luna. 

“We have heard from the community that evening hours are essential, more weekend availability of clinics is essential, they want a no-barrier, no registration, a lot more walk-ups, so that’s what we’re doing currently to ensure that we are addressing specifically the Latinx community and the disparities that we see there.”

It was only just a few weeks ago where community vaccine clinics like at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose, which offers walk-ups only, had long lines with people ready to be vaccinated. 

As of Wednesday, virtually no lines. 

More than 40% of county’s Latinx population vaccinated

“I think from the onset from day one there were lines around the plaza, when we had only 300 vaccines, there were 1,000 people waiting to be vaccinated and most of those people were people of color,” says Maribel Montañez, development director for Gardner Health Services. 

“They were Latinos and Latinas waiting in line.”

Montañez tells KRON4 News that the dip in people getting vaccinated could be due to children returning to school along with many who cannot afford to lose more than a day from work. 

According to county data, more than 40% of the county’s Latinx population ages 16 and up has received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

“I think we need to shift the conversation aways from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine access,” says Montañez. 

“We can’t begin to fix the issue of hesitancy until we really understand and know and meet the needs of the communities that do want to get vaccinated and right now it’s not about hesitancy it’s that there are no after hours,” Montañez added. 

“Right now we have a great opportunity to really capture that other 60% and we have to get creative on how we do that.”

Outreach efforts continue

The School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza has partnered with local schools, the county, and community organizations to launch an outreach pilot program to help residents have direct access to available vaccine appointments. 

The pilot program will assist residents living in zip codes hardest-hit by COVID to schedule vaccine appointments throughout the county. 

“We’re really trying to hold access and trust as critical components of breaking through the lack of access historically that we know our community has,” says Johnathan Borca, director of strategic partnerships at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. 

“The same effort that we are continuing is for us to also think about creative ways to get families here, so we’re working with Gardner Health to make sure that we can even have allocation set aside vaccines for the same school partners.”

The vaccine clinic through a partnership with Gardner Health Services is working to partner with the county to expand their hours of operation to better fit the needs of the community.

Currently, the vaccine clinic is open during the following days:

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m.

Starting this week, clinics and pop-up sites around the county will be open for walk-ups.

Click here to learn more.