Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, director of vaccine programs at Kedren Health, oversees another day where hundreds of people line up for their turn at receiving the Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Health.
Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, director of vaccine programs at Kedren Health, oversees another day where hundreds of people line up for their turn at receiving the Covid-19 vaccine at Kedren Health. Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

Dr. Jerry Abraham is determined to ensure California’s most vulnerable communities have access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

Abraham has spent the last several months calling state officials to demand vaccine doses for Black and brown people in hard hit South Los Angeles, developing vaccine sites that welcomed walk-in patients, hosting mass vaccination events featuring entertainers and deploying mobile vaccination fleets to neighborhoods where residents don’t have transportation.

Abraham, director of vaccines at Kedren Community Health Center, said he is now vaccinating 5,000 people a day and filling a void in a community that might otherwise be neglected.

“We broke down every barrier that stood between people and their vaccines,” Abraham told CNN. “No appointment, that’s OK. No internet or email, phone or transportation, can’t walk, talk or see, can’t speak English, undocumented, homeless — none of those things were barriers.”

California remains one of the states with the worst disparities in vaccinating its Latino population despite efforts like Abraham’s and a statewide mandate that allocates 40% of vaccine doses to underserved communities.

According to state data, 20% of vaccine doses have been administered to Latinos, who make up 39% of the population and 56% of cases.

And 3% of vaccines have been administered to Black people in California, who make up 6% of the population and 4% of the cases. White people, meanwhile, have received 29% of vaccines and make up 20% of cases and 37% of the population.

Health advocates say misinformation about the vaccine and lack of access have been key reasons for the racial inequities in California.

Now they are urging the state and its partners to boost vaccination efforts in communities of color to prevent the disparity from growing when all California adults become eligible for the shot on April 15. Some fear that residents with reliable internet, transportation and the ability to take off work will continue to outpace poor Black and Latino communities that have been among the hardest hit by Covid-19.

California officials were blasted earlier this year when when a vaccine program meant for seniors living in Black and Latino communities was misused by outsiders who obtained the special group codes needed to schedule appointments.

Gov. Gavin Newsom responded saying the group codes were being abused and that the program would switch to individual codes. About a week later, Newsom’s administration announced it was setting aside 40% of vaccine doses for hard-hit communities.

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