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More Black Californians Taking COVID Shot as U.S. Reviews Vaccines for Younger Kids

Even as vaccination booster shots are becoming more readily available around the country, the COVID-19 Delta variant remains a significant threat in the U.S. and around the world. So, public health leaders are focused on expanding efforts get as many people as possible access to vaccinations and booster shots.

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Stock image of a doctor placing a bandaid on a young black female patient after a vaccination sitting on her mother's lap

Black Californians have joined Black Americans around the country in closing the COVID-19 vaccine equity gap.

As of October 11, Black Californians were 4.2% of Californians who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, up from 2.7% in February, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).  About 5.7% of the state’s population of nearly 40 million people are Black.

“Through our investments in targeted outreach and robust community-based partnerships, our work continues to reach the hardest-hit communities. Vaccines are how we end this pandemic,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom last week.  “I encourage all eligible Californians to visit MyTurn.ca.gov to schedule an appointment for their first dose or find a booster shot to keep themselves and their community healthy.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine equity gap is narrowing across the United States as about 11% of the people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine are Black Americans, a group that makes up 12.4% of the U.S. population.

U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, spoke with California Black Media last week about the importance of equity in the nation’s pandemic response.

“The way we define success with the vaccination effort isn’t just how many people got vaccinated, but how equitably and fairly we get the vaccine to people across our country,” Murthy said.

“We know that there are communities in our country that have been long underserved by the healthcare system and the victims of structural inequities and structural racism that have prevented them from getting the care that they need,” he continued.

Murthy spoke about some of the equity challenges leaders faced at the beginning of the pandemic. The approach the feds took to address some of those difficulties was similar to California’s strategy.

“Early on in the vaccination effort, we saw those disparities developing in the adult population with Black communities and Latino communities having lower vaccination rates than White communities,” Murthy said.

“But the good news is there has been a lot of effort over the last many months, which included a lot of outreach and partnerships with communities of color, with leaders and organizations in those communities, working hard to make sure we had mobile units out getting to communities to bring vaccines to where people are and getting vaccines directly to community health centers where we know a lot of folks get their care. All of these efforts together, along with making sure the vaccines are free and making sure as many doctors as possible have the vaccine in their offices, has helped us close a lot of that equity gap,” Murthy continued.

Even as vaccination booster shots are becoming more readily available around the country, the COVID-19 Delta variant remains a significant threat in the U.S. and around the world. So, public health leaders are focused on expanding efforts get as many people as possible access to vaccinations and booster shots.

“California is leading the nation in vaccinations, with 52 million administered and 86% of the eligible population having received at least one dose – today’s Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommendation on booster shots will help keep the momentum going as we enter the winter months,” Newsom said last week.

California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington state came together last year and created the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The group, made up of scientists, medical professionals and public health experts, is charged with reviewing COVID-19 vaccine safety.

Last week, the workgroup recommended booster shots for vulnerable people and those who live or work in high-risk settings – if they have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine prior.

“Recipients of the Moderna vaccine may receive a booster shot six months after completing their primary vaccination series, and recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may receive a booster shot two months after receiving their first dose,” the governor’s office said in a statement last week.

The workgroup also recommended a “mix-and-match” method, which means people who have received a Moderna vaccine can get a Johnson & Johnson booster shot and vice-versa.

Earlier this month, Newsom announced that California will be the first state in the nation to require children in middle school and high school to be vaccinated once COVID-19 vaccines for children are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA and the CDC will review data from Pfizer during the next two weeks to decide if COVID-19 vaccines are safe for even younger children, ages 5 through 11.

“Right now, what is happening is that the FDA is examining the data from Pfizer about clinical trials that concern kids 5-11 and they’re looking for two things: first is to understand if these vaccines work to protect our children from COVID and second, are they safe,” Murthy explained.

“Until they complete their review and make a decision on whether or not to offer the vaccine, we certainly won’t recommend them to the public or make a move to roll out vaccines. It’s all contingent upon the FDA’s review and the CDC’s recommendation,” according to Murthy.

Murthy also addressed the myth that young children are somehow immune to the effects of COVID-19.

“Even though kids do better than adults when it comes to COVID-19, it is not benign in children. We want to protect our children from the virus, and we also know that COVID has disrupted our kids’ lives in terms of making school difficult, interrupting youth sports, and making it hard to see friends and family members. So, getting our kids vaccinated is a big step towards not only protecting their health but helping them get their lives back,” Murthy said.

Murthy stressed the importance of equity and said that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will continue to employ the same methods for children as they did for adults if the FDA and CDC approve vaccines for children in the 5-11 age range.

“We will bring the same commitment to vaccinating kids under 12. We are building on the great partnerships we have with community-based organizations and trusted leaders across the country. We are building on the access points that we’ve set up in the past and increasing those even further so there will be tens of thousands of places where people can get a vaccine for their children,” Murthy said.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

Bay Area

Get Booster Shot, Celebrate Thanksgiving Holiday Safely, State Officials Say

Officials are encouraging people who took both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago to get their boosters now. People who took the one-shot Johnson & Johnson primary dose at least two months ago, should also schedule their booster shot.

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According to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, the booster shots are being administered under an “emergency use authorization.”
According to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, the booster shots are being administered under an “emergency use authorization.”

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Golden State public health officials are recommending that Californians take COVID-19 booster shots to prevent a resurgence of the disease and to celebrate the holidays safely with their loved ones.

“It’s not too late to get it,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Department, referring to the COVID-19 booster shot. He was speaking at a vaccine clinic in Los Angeles County last week.

“Get that added protection for the Thanksgiving gatherings you may attend,” he said.

Last week, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine boosters for all adults in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) followed with an endorsement of the booster vaccine, recommending it for people over age 50, and anyone 18 and older who is at higher risk.

The CDC loosened the language for all other adults, saying anyone over age 18 “may” take the shot.

California officials say the booster shots are plenty and available throughout the state.

“If you think you will benefit from getting a booster shot, I encourage you,” said Ghaly. “Supplies are available. There are many sites across the state – thousands in fact.”

On Saturday, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup completed a separate review of the federal government’s approval process for the booster shots and also recommended that “individuals 18 or older who have completed their primary vaccination series,” take the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters.

California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington state came together last year and created the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The group, made up of scientists, medical professionals and public health experts, is charged with reviewing COVID-19 vaccine safety.

Over the last two weeks, COVID-19 infections across the United States have increased at a rate of nearly 33%, according to the CDC.

Officials are encouraging people who took both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago to get their boosters now. People who took the one-shot Johnson & Johnson primary dose at least two months ago, should also schedule their booster shot.

“COVID-19 boosters are available to all Californians 18 [and over]! Walk-in clinics are open statewide with no appointment necessary – like this mobile clinic in Avenal. Find a clinic or pharmacy near you and get yours today,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office chimed in on Twitter.

Newsom has pushed hard for the vaccine booster since he received his last month.

“Great news for the rest of the country. The holidays are here — make sure to keep your immunity up and protect yourself and your loved ones. Get your booster,” Newsom tweeted on November 18.

According to Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, the booster shots are being administered under an “emergency use authorization.”

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.

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Bay Area

COMMENTARY: Happy Thanksgiving, and Please Get Vaccinated

To all our staff who have been working so incredibly hard over the past few months to welcome our students and families back to school safely with such grace: You all inspire me and our whole community, and I deeply appreciate all that you do each and every day on behalf of our young people and families.

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Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District
Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District.

By Supt. Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell

Dear Oakland Unified Community,

As we now begin the Thanksgiving break, I must give thanks for being part of such a wonderful community, with brilliant and beautiful children, caring and supportive families, and amazingly dedicated staff.

It has always been clear to me that here in Oakland, we watch out for each other and take care of each other, especially in the most challenging times.

Last week, my family went to our doctor’s office to get our flu and COVID vaccines. Getting my family vaccinated has given me so much relief and hope as we plan to gather with grandparents and other family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Our staff and partners are working tirelessly to make sure all OUSD families have access to the COVID vaccine across the city. I am so proud of the amazing efforts of our staff to reach out to our most vulnerable populations and help them get vaccinated.

They have reached out to families with thousands of phone calls and letters to answer questions and provide resources and facts about the vaccine. Additionally, this (past) week alone, we co-hosted 21 vaccination pop-ups that served 35 of our schools in neighborhoods hardest hit by COVID.

We heard from Cheryl Narvaez, the parent of a second grader and a fourth grader at Think College Now and what she said was so inspiring. “Our family was eager to get vaccinated as soon as we could since we were going to spend some time with family (including grandparents) during the holiday season. I told my kids that if they got vaccinated, it would help keep everyone extra healthy and safe AND that they could potentially play with cousins and other friends indoors. Once they heard that, they said ‘yes!’”

Narvaez further shared what a positive experience she and her students had by getting vaccinated. “After it was done, I felt a huge sense of relief that my kids had an extra layer of protection from COVID. I am also proud that they were so brave and were opened to sharing their positive experience with others. They also told me that they were surprised that the shot was so quick!”

We are also working with our partners to ensure that our community has access to lots of COVID-19 testing during Thanksgiving break, so that students, staff, and family members can get tested before returning to school.

We trust that families will stay as safe as possible during Thanksgiving break, but we also know that with travel and indoor gatherings, community COVID spread is always a possibility. I urge you once again to get your family vaccinated and to test after traveling or attending large gatherings, before school resumes on Monday, November 29.

We also provided at-home rapid test kits to students attending Child Development Centers, elementary schools, and middle schools in high priority ZIP codes. Each kit contains two tests for testing on Sunday, November 28 prior to returning to school and again on Wednesday, December 1. We had hoped to provide these kits to all students and staff who want them, but the state’s supply is still limited.

To all our staff who have been working so incredibly hard over the past few months to welcome our students and families back to school safely with such grace: You all inspire me and our whole community, and I deeply appreciate all that you do each and every day on behalf of our young people and families.

To our students, families, and staff: I know the last year-and-a-half have been difficult for all of us, but we have real reason for hope as we enter this holiday season. I ask that you join me and my family in getting vaccinated, masking up when gathering, and encouraging others to do the same. I wish you and your family all the best next week: safe, loving, and joyful days together.

Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District.

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Commentary

COVID-19: Gov. Newsom Signs Executive Order Supporting Healthcare Facilities

Although 88% of Californians 18 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, cases are on the rise as California loses its top position among states with the lowest case rates. Newsom has raised concerns about cases increasing during the winter months.

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During a press conference on Nov. 10, the Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Californians not to become complacent.
During a press conference on Nov. 10, the Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Californians not to become complacent.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order allowing out-of-state healthcare workers to supplement staffing at healthcare facilities across California.

The order is an extension of a statewide COVID-19 provision that also allows “certain medical personnel and emergency medical technicians to continue supporting the state’s COVID-19 response, including administering vaccines,” according to the governor’s office.

Although 88% of Californians 18 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, cases are on the rise as California loses its top position among states with the lowest case rates.

Newsom has raised concerns about cases increasing during the winter months.

“COVID cases are beginning to rise — winter months mean people indoors & more possibilities for spread. The unvaccinated are now almost 7 [times] more likely to get COVID, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized–and 18 [times] more likely to die. Keep your immunity up. Get your booster,” Newsom tweeted.

The executive order allows health care facilities to use alternative spaces like parking lots to administer vaccinations.

California health officials are encouraging any adult who wants a COVID-19 booster shot to get one as eligibility has been extended to all adults.

During a press conference on Nov. 10, the governor warned Californians not to become complacent.

“It was around this time last year that folks started to put their masks down a little bit and started to feel like we can spend a little time together outside of our households,” Newsom said. “We’re looking forward to all that, I’m looking forward to all of that, seeing friends and family. I just want to remind people to do it with some common sense and the kind of protections we’re here today to promote.”

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