Spartan Spear & Riordan Roundtable: Vaccination Rollout
This is the third in a series of editorial collaborations between ICA Cristo Rey's Spartan Press and Riordan High School's Crusader. This edition's topic is the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in San Francisco and California.
(COVID-19 Vaccination Hub at the SF Moscone Center. Photo: KQED)
By Daniella Arevalo '21
As of Monday, March 29, 2021, President Biden has stated that by April 19 up to 90% of adults in America will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, and that up to 90% of people will live within a five mile radius of a vaccination center within three weeks. This message brings hope to many, over a year after COVID-19 hit the U.S. However, the U.S. must prioritize marginalized communities and heed caution for the rollout to be effective.
In the Bay Area, things have a slightly more positive outlook than nationally or even statewide. Average cases went from about 500 during the week of March 15th to 451 during the week of March 22. This is a drastic change from the steep decline from January to March, and there are many factors to consider: vaccination rates, changing restrictions, and new variants. Some experts are optimistic that cases will continue to fall, but others are worried this plateau could indicate a future increase.
18 states have lifted their mask mandates, and many have softened their social distancing guidelines, but as experts suggest, this could lead to a rise in cases. California and San Francisco specifically cannot afford for this to happen. Crowds have begun gathering in bigger numbers in San Francisco in places such as Dolores Park and Fisherman’s Wharf. Some data shows that young, unvaccinated people account for a growing portion of COVID-19 cases in hospitals, and this suggests that the vaccines have been working by protecting the vaccinated elderly. While the vaccine increases people’s confidence in an end to the pandemic, the vaccination rollout has to be paired with adequate restrictions and guidelines in order to be as effective as possible.
Data also shows that black and Latino communities in San Francisco have been continuously hit the hardest by the pandemic. While San Francisco has praised itself for its handling of the coronavirus, many ignore the troubling disparities and inequity that the city’s communities of color face. In December, the Mission Local reported that Latinos in San Francisco were 5x more likely to contract coronavirus in comparison to other residents, while white people were 2x less likely. Dr. Malcom John, UCSF’s Infectious Disease Specialist, says black people infected with COVID-19 are 3x more likely to die from the virus. These disparities are not only limited to infection rates and fatalities themselves, but also vaccine impact.
According to data from the CDC, and reported by the SF Chronicle, California lies amongst the five worst states regarding vaccination equity. While Governor Newsom celebrated a “record-breaking week” for vaccinations on March 21st, black residents account for a mere 3% of inoculations in California. According to data from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the city’s wealthiest areas tend to be the most vaccinated. This highlights an overarching problem that California and San Francisco face.
Historically, San Francisco has prided itself on its values of progressiveness. Taking a closer look, however, the city has a long history of ignoring the needs of people of color and erasing its discriminatory past and present. Boasts of newly renovated neighborhoods drown out voices of color hurt by gentrification, our reputation of culturally and racially diverse communities sometimes garners more attention than SFPD’s track record with racially based policing, and many are unaware that in 2019, hate crime rose 58% in the city while it plateaued in the rest of California, according to data from the FBI. The disturbing pattern here is that San Francisco--mainly white, middle-to-upper-class San Francisco--sometimes prides itself on the illusion of progressiveness and inclusivity built on lies from discrete, or ignored, forms of oppression. Thus, the stark disparities that the city has witnessed from COVID-19 and vaccination rollouts do not surprise the many residents who live through them.
Fortunately, people are fighting for vaccination equity. California is now operating on a plan to allocate 40% of its doses to zip codes with the lowest average income, and the Biden administration has launched a campaign to centralize vaccination efforts through a localized community-based approach. In response to a new vaccination center at the Third Baptist Church, Jonathan Butler, Executive Director of the SF African American Faith-Based Coalition, said, “This is exactly the message that we are trying to send. Bring the vaccine to the community. Let the church, let the community actually do the work.”
Many factors go into the disparities of the COVID-19 pandemic: job insecurity, job type, lack of insurance, higher rates of comorbidities, different needs for transportation, crowded living situations, lack of patient-doctor trust, and more. While actively targeting those affected by these situations for vaccination can help fight the spread of COVID-19, these are issues that need to be addressed in the long term. The extreme inequity that San Francisco and California are currently facing during the vaccine rollout process cannot be treated as an exception to an otherwise untarnished record.
By Grayson Salomon '22
The long awaited COVID-19 Vaccine has finally arrived in the Bay Area, and the rollout has been quite a rollercoaster. It began around early February-late January and from what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced it’s been going pretty well.
The vaccine is being distributed in several phases to the general public of the eight counties in the Bay Area, along with the other 50 in California. Phase 1A and Phase 1B being health care workers, long care term residents, those who work in education, people with high chance of exposure and those 65 and older. The next phase was for essential workers and those at high risk 16 and up.
Recently, California has updated the eligibility for those 50 and over, which started on April 1, and every Californian 16 and older starting April 15.
In addition, the California government released a new website called “My Turn,” which allows users to schedule an appointment and view their eligibility for the vaccine. The website is very easy to use, and only requires a couple of clicks and questions to be answered to see when you can get the vaccine.
Also in San Francisco, mass vaccination sites have been opening left and right such as the Moscone Center downtown and even the CCSF Parking Lot and SF State near Riordan. Even retail stores like Walgreens and CVS Pharmaceutical are handing out COVID shots, both of which are located right on Ocean Avenue (CVS is inside of Target on Ocean).
These factors really made the process for vaccination very simple and easy. However, I feel there have been some things that could’ve been done differently in the whole rollout.
First, I feel like the first phase should’ve included communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic such as the Mission, The Tenderloin and Hunter’s Point/Bayview neighborhoods.
Data from San Francisco’s COVID-19 data website suggests that these two neighborhoods have the highest new case rate per 10,000 residents. The Mission’s rate being 18.78 percent, Hunters Point/Bayview being 20.86 percent and The Tenderloin being 25.69 percent. Even though this decision couldn’t have been made by the state, maybe the city could’ve added this to the rollout process.
Also, many people have had to go the distance to get their shot. For example, some teachers at Riordan had to travel all the way to Oakland to get their doses, when there's literally a vaccine center across the street from campus. I know the appointments are first come first served, but the city could’ve better prioritized people by their location instead of having them cross the bay four times and pay a toll twice to get their vaccine.
Overall, I think the vaccine rollout is pretty successful so far and is moving in the right direction. It takes all of us to end this pandemic and if you're reading this after April 15, go get your shots!