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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Hurdles For City Heights Seniors Looking For COVID-19 Vaccines

A screening tent outside of La Maestra Community Health Center in City Height...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: A screening tent outside of La Maestra Community Health Center in City Heights, where residents can be screened for eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine on February 10th, 2021.

As vaccination superstations have opened across the county, City Heights and the rest of the Mid-City area remain without a major vaccination hub. Instead, the area has been relying on local providers to reach out to eligible residents.

That’s leaving people behind, says longtime City Heights resident Anna Daniels, who says it was her own privilege that made it possible for her to be vaccinated.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“I’m an upper middle-class white person with a car. I got my vaccine,” she said. “That should be no surprise. I’m the low-hanging fruit that always manages to get it first.”

She’s worried that the complicated process to sign up for a vaccine, and the need to rely on a car or rideshare, puts up roadblocks for many other people.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

Right now, La Maestra Health Center, in the heart of City Heights, is focusing on vaccinating its own patients. But Chief Medical Officer Javier Rodriguez says that if you’re eligible for the vaccine, meaning you’re 65 and older or a healthcare worker, it’s easy to become a patient at La Maestra and receive one. People can walk up to the health center’s screening station on Fairmount Avenue.

La Maestra has already vaccinated 1,000 people, including 700 community members. They’ve done so by reaching out to community members to let them know about the vaccine, and trying to reassure community members concerned about possible side effects.

“As you know, there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy, vaccine resistance, so providing a lot of education, whether it be phone calls, texts that we send, flyers that we come up with that tell people that the vaccines are safe and effective,” Dr. Rodriguez explained. “The vast majority of people do fine, even after the second dose.”

Dr. Rodriguez also says that the health center is ready to send out its mobile units, with the necessary cooling equipment, to expand access even deeper into communities. They’re just waiting for the state to give the go-ahead.

RELATED: County Takes Regional Approach To Vaccinations For Border Crossers

City Heights City Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera says that the City of San Diego should be opening up more vaccine opportunities in City Heights in the coming weeks. It will lean heavily on community organizations like La Maestra to get the word out about opportunities.

Elo-Rivera said the city needs their help to overcome years of distrust between the medical establishment, the government and immigrant communities.

“We’re going to have to accept and acknowledge the damage that has been done over generations. We can’t do that effectively without acknowledging that. And once we’ve acknowledged that effectively, then we can have a real conversation about what it means to develop and build trust,” Elo-Rivera said.

But he also stressed that decisions on where to place the first mass vaccination sites were based on where the more cases were being reported, such as the South Bay.

On Wednesday, the county told KPBS that more vaccine opportunities for City Heights were on the way, but couldn’t attach a date, based on still-limited vaccine supplies.

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Photo of Max Rivlin-Nadler

Max Rivlin-Nadler
Speak City Heights Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover City Heights, a neighborhood at the intersection of immigration, gentrification, and neighborhood-led health care initiatives. I'm interested in how this unique neighborhood deals with economic inequality during an unprecedented global health crisis.

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