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Huntington Beach and Local Hospital Team Up to Get Vaccine into Vulnerable Arms; Look for Similar Shot-a-Thons in Your Town

By Orange County Register

March 5, 2021

In the year-long fight against coronavirus, this seemingly simple event capped a milestone for hundreds of Huntington Beach residents: On Friday, March 5, they lined up in a hospital parking lot for their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

But it wasn’t as simple as it looked. Many who got their shots Friday came from Huntington Beach’s predominately Latino neighborhood of Oak View, which has suffered the city’s highest numbers of coronavirus cases. Others had been unable to land a vaccine appointment at one of the mega-distribution centers.

All were 65 and older, per California’s vaccination schedule.

A few weeks ago, Huntington Beach Hospital received 600 Pfizer vaccines. The doses have a limited shelf life, so officials had two choices — use those shots soon or pass them over to another health care provider.

So the hospital, the city and the Senior Center combined efforts to get those vaccines into the arms of vulnerable community members – whether low-income, disabled or unable to register on a website. City firefighters and lifeguards took crash courses in giving people shots.

Round one of the two-step procedure was three weeks ago. Round two, the final shots, came Thursday and Friday.

“Everything went so smoothly,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr. “There were eight chairs. A chair would open up, and the next person would take it. No one waited in a long line. It was 25 minutes from start to finish.”

Carr described the mood Friday as “joyful.”

“People were relaxed and super happy to be vaccinated,” she said. “They’d been through this process before, so they knew the drill. I saw a 101-year-old woman get vaccinated. It was heartwarming.”

In advance, the Senior Center contacted 1,000 residents – largely by phone and email – to inform them about the opportunity, Carr said.

“For many people, it’s been challenging to drive to Soka University or the (Anaheim) Convention Center for vaccines,” Carr said.

Other cities are also partnering with health care providers to vaccinate seniors who might have fallen through the cracks. Irvine and Hoag Hospital teamed up Thursday to get 300 doses into arms at a one-day clinic in the Lakeview Senior Center. And Irvine worked with MemorialCare on another clinic for 200 seniors Friday.

Fullerton has organized clinics for seniors with the help of St. Jude Medical Center.

Santa Ana is planning a vaccine clinic for seniors next weekend at the Southwest Senior Center and is arranging appointments now.

Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said he thinks local cities should be helping get vaccinations to residents, particularly people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. City staffers spent months in hard-hit neighborhoods – communities full of essential workers, multi-generation households and with less access to health care – educating people on curbing the virus’s spread. That work included getting potentially infected people to get COVID tests and support; even handing out masks and hand sanitizer.

“We really embedded ourselves in those neighborhoods,” Sarmiento said of experience that can now be used for vaccinations.

Huntington Beach already offers older residents free door-to-door rides for medical appointments, a program called “Seniors on the Go.” So the city used that service to bring people to Huntington Beach Hospital for the vaccines, Carr said.

Both the city and Huntington Beach Hospital hope to repeat the shot-a-thon, Carr said. Meanwhile, she added, people should seek vaccinations through Orange County’s site othena.com and on myturn.ca.gov.

As of Thursday, 734,297 vaccine doses have been administered in Orange County, according to the state’s reporting system. About 255,000 people have finished their two-shot regimen since December.

“It’s a matter of vaccine supply,” Carr noted. “I wish we could do this every week.”

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