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Questions Answered About the COVID-19 Vaccine

As a primary care doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, I get a lot of questions about the vaccines. Many people are confused because they are the first of their kind. I also understand our community’s history of being mistreated by the medical profession, and our ongoing health disparities can make it hard to trust the health care system.

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Dr. Nailah Thompson receiving her COVID-19 vaccination

My 67-year-old mom recently called to let me know she’d gotten her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. She said it went well, but she was surprised she was the only Black or Brown person she noticed getting the vaccine.

My mom isn’t the only one concerned about this. We know that Black and Brown communities are getting the virus more and are dying at higher rates than white communities, but fewer of us are getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a primary care doctor at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, I get a lot of questions about the vaccines. Many people are confused because they are the first of their kind. I also understand our community’s history of being mistreated by the medical profession, and our ongoing health disparities can make it hard to trust the health care system.

Below are some answers to questions that come up often with my patients, family and friends.

The vaccines were developed quickly. Are they safe?

Yes, they are safe. The vaccines were developed quickly because the new mRNA technology we hear so much about was already in the works, and because the federal government provided significant financial and other support to vaccine developers. A safety board approved every study, and the FDA carefully reviewed the data from every phase of every vaccine trial. I looked carefully at the science and the data and based on that — I decided it was safe to get vaccinated.

Does it alter your DNA?

It does not. The COVID-19 vaccine is a new type of vaccine that uses mRNA not DNA. mRNA teaches our cells to make specific proteins that stimulate our immune system to create antibodies to a virus. This keeps us from getting sick. mRNA does not interact with or alter DNA. In fact, cells break down and get rid of mRNA after it does its job.

Does it contain the COVID-19 virus?

No. The COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the virus and will not give you COVID-19.

Were communities of color part of the vaccine clinical trials?

Yes. Vaccine trial participants were from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, 10% African American/Black and 13-20 % Latinx. They also included a significant number of people greater than 55 years old.

What about side effects?

You may have mild to moderate side effects in the first 24 to 36 hours, and that’s normal. It’s a sign your body is building immunity against the virus. Some common side effects are fever, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle and joint pain. An extremely small number of people who have a prior history of allergies to vaccines have had an allergic reaction, which is why you will be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes after getting the vaccine. If you do have vaccine allergies, you should discuss the vaccine with your doctor.

Whether or not you decide to get vaccinated is an important personal decision. I decided to get the vaccine because I believe it’s our best tool to end the pandemic and the suffering it’s caused in our communities.

There have been challenges with getting enough vaccine supply, and Kaiser Permanente, like other health care systems, is working to get more. We’re also working to ensure we’re giving the vaccine equitably, making sure people who are at highest risk of getting infected, or dying from COVID-19, get vaccinated first.

Dr. Nailah Thompson is an internist with The Permanente Medical Group at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine myths and facts at the CDC website.

California Black Media

Gov. Newsom Announces He Backs a Ban on Cellphones in Schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday. The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms.

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Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

By California Black Media

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday.

The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms.

Proposed regulations include warning labels on harmful content that may hurt minors active on social media. The Governor stated that he plans to sign a law that authorizes school districts to limit or ban the use of smartphones by students or require the supervision of a school employee.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth. Building on legislation I signed in 2019, I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day,” said Newsom.

“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens,” he said.

In 2022, Newsom authored a letter urging companies in the tech industry to drop a lawsuit against the children’s online safety law he signed that same year. Newsom aims to take online safety laws a step further allowing school districts to ban or limit the use of smartphones to help protect children from the harmful effects of social media.

The California School Boards Association argues that any rules on the use of smartphones should be regulated by school districts as opposed to the state.

Troy Flint, the school board association’s spokesperson, said that school districts should make the final decision on regulations over smartphones.

“We support legislation which empowers school leaders to make policy decisions at a local level that reflect their community’s concerns and what’s necessary to support their students,” said Flint.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) supports Gov. Newsom’s plan to ban smartphones during school hours, stating that smartphones and devices distract students from learning and facilitate cyberbullying.

On June 18, LAUSD voted to ban the use of cellphones during the school day.

In a similar light, Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) proposed SB 1283 earlier this year. If passed, the legislation will give school districts more authority to limit the use of social media at school. SB 1283 is currently under review in the Assembly Education Committee.

“It’s just too hard for every teacher, every school, or every parent to have to figure this out on their own,” said Stern. “There are sometimes when government just has to step in and make some bigger rules of the road.”

A similar bill, AB 3216, introduced by Assemblymembers Josh Hoover (R-Folsom), Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), is being considered by the Senate Education Committee.

The bills would take effect in January if passed by the Legislature and is approved by the Board of Education in school districts that support the cellphone ban.

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Community

Gov. Newsom: California Is Making Progress in Fentanyl Fight

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that state law enforcement authorities seized 5.8 million pills containing fentanyl across the state since the beginning of the year. The California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force partnered with local and federal law enforcement to seize illegal fentanyl off the streets and at ports of entry along the Southern border, according to Newsom.

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By California Black Media

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that state law enforcement authorities seized 5.8 million pills containing fentanyl across the state since the beginning of the year.

The California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force partnered with local and federal law enforcement to seize illegal fentanyl off the streets and at ports of entry along the Southern border, according to Newsom.

Two weeks ago, the State Senate passed the bipartisan Safer California Plan to address the fentanyl crisis and reduce crime in communities statewide.

Senate President pro-Tempore Mike McGuire (D-North Coast) has coauthored 15 bills focusing on crime prevention in local communities. Ten of the bills focus on evidence-based prevention and treatment solutions that address substance abuse and the fentanyl crisis.

Pro Tem McGuire said the bills, “will help curb the deadly fentanyl epidemic,” and reduce community-based crimes that impact people across the state.

CalGuard Major General Matthew Beevers worked alongside law enforcement partners to tackle the fentanyl crisis in the state.

“The volume of seizures we’re enabling and supporting demonstrates our commitment to denying operating capital to drug cartels and making California safer,” said Beevers.

Before the Senate’s package of bills passed, Gov. Newsom compiled a master plan designed to tackle the growing fentanyl and opioid crisis in California. The master plan provided a framework that addresses drug trafficking, supports overdose prevention efforts, and holds the pharmaceutical industry accountable.

“Illegal fentanyl has no place in our neighborhoods. California is tackling this problem head-on by holding drug traffickers accountable and increasing seizures, while at the same time expanding access to substance abuse treatment options and providing lifesaving, affordable reversal medicine to Californians statewide,” said Newsom.

The Newsom administration has also launched an online resource and tools for residents seeking help with prevention and treatment methods for fentanyl and opioid-related substance abuse at Opioids.Ca. Gov

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Activism

Community Celebrates Historic Oakland Billboard Agreements

We, the Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition, which includes Oakland’s six leading community health clinics, all ethnic chambers of commerce, and top community-based economic development organizations – celebrate the historic billboard agreements approved last year by the Oakland City Council. We have fought for this opportunity against the billboard monopoly, against Clear Channel, for five years. The agreements approved by Council set the bar for community benefits – nearly $70 Million over their lifetime, more than 23 times the total paid by all previous Clear Channel relocation agreements in Oakland combined.

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The Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition.
The Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition.

Grand Jury Report Incorrect – Council & Community Benefit

We, the Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition, which includes Oakland’s six leading community health clinics, all ethnic chambers of commerce, and top community-based economic development organizations – celebrate the historic billboard agreements approved last year by the Oakland City Council. We have fought for this opportunity against the billboard monopoly, against Clear Channel, for five years. The agreements approved by Council set the bar for community benefits – nearly $70 Million over their lifetime, more than 23 times the total paid by all previous Clear Channel relocation agreements in Oakland combined.

Unfortunately, a recent flawed Grand Jury report got it wrong, so we feel compelled to correct the record:

  1. Regarding the claim that the decision was made hastily, the report itself belies that claim. The process was five years in the making, with two and a half years from the first City Council hearing to the final vote. Along the way, as the report describes, there were multiple Planning Commission hearings, public stakeholder outreach meetings, a Council Committee meeting, and then a vote by the full Council. Not only was this not hasty, it had far more scrutiny than any of the previous relocation agreements approved by the City with Clear Channel, all of which provide 1/23 of the benefits of the Becker/OFI agreements approved by the Council.
  2. More importantly, the agreements will actually bring millions to the City and community, nearly $70M to be exact, 23 times the previous Clear Channel relocation agreements combined. They certainly will not cost the city money, especially since nothing would have been on the table at all if our Coalition had not been fighting for it. Right before the decisive City Council Committee hearing, in the final weeks before the full Council vote, there was a hastily submitted last-minute “proposal” by Clear Channel that was debunked as based on non-legal and non-economically viable sites, and relying entirely on the endorsement of a consultant that boasts Clear Channel as their biggest client and whose decisions map to Clear Channel’s monopolistic interests all over the country. Some City staff believed these unrealistic numbers based on false premises, and, since they only interviewed City staff, the Grand Jury report reiterated this misinformation, but it was just part of Clear Channel’s tried and true monopolistic practices of seeking to derail agreements that actually set the new standard for billboard community benefits. Furthermore, our proposals are not mutually exclusive – if Clear Channel’s proposal was real, why had they not brought it forward previously? Why have they not brought it forward since? Because it was not a real proposal – it was nothing but smoke and mirrors, as the Clear Channel’s former Vice President stated publicly at Council.

Speaking on behalf of the community health clinics that are the primary beneficiaries of the billboard funding, La Clinica de la Raza CEO Jane Garcia, states: “In this case, the City Council did the right thing – listening to the community that fought for five years to create this opportunity that is offering the City and community more than twenty times what previous billboard relocation agreements have offered.”

 

Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition

Native American Health Center La Clínica de la Raza West Oakland Health Center
Asian Health Services Oakland LGBTQ Center Roots Community Health Center
The Unity Council Black Cultural Zone Visit Oakland
Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce Building Trades of Alameda County (partial list)
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