Full disclosure: This story contains an interview of Sonia Smith-Kang, the co-founder of Culturas.
LA County released new information on the availability of the coveted COVID-19 vaccine’s second dose. On February 4, the county passed along registration details for both the Pfizer and Moderna shots.
Angelenos can find out when they’ll be eligible for their dose by signing up for the vaccine newsletter here. The second dose, which completes an individual’s vaccination process, is for residents who received the first shot before January 29. Specifically, the first shot should have been administered at one of the County-approved sites including El Sereno, Balboa Sports Complex, Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, Hazard/Belvedere, Pomona Fairplex, The Forum, Cal State University Northridge, the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey, and Magic Mountain. These recipients will receive “emails with a unique link confirming the place and date of their second dose appointment and will allow them to confirm the time of the appointment,” stated the newsletter.
Currently, LA County’s healthcare workers, healthcare workers from other counties employed in LA, and residents aged 65 and above are the only groups eligible for the vaccine. When signing up for it, the newsletter asks basic questions about one’s age and health history. It then accordingly informs signees when they would be eligible.
A bungled distribution
The new rollout comes amidst mass confusion in LA County’s vaccination strategy. Moreover, there is a massive shortage of vaccines in California. The sheer size of LA County (the most populous in the country) and the deep divide between lower-income communities and the wealthy made vaccination a rocky road.
Marginalized groups, especially Black and Latinx communities who have less social capital, are grievously impacted by the virus. However, they were not the first to receive protection in the form of vaccines. Discrimination exists in access too. Demographic data from the county Department of Public Health (DPH) proved that the vaccination rate in South LA–home to a large number of frontline workers–was remarkably lower than the rate in wealthier enclaves. “There may be many issues that contribute to the lower vaccination rates that we’re seeing in some communities, but the one issue that we don’t want to have accounting for a lower vaccination rate is that there wasn’t good access to places for people to get vaccinated,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer in a Los Angeles Times report.
LA’s medical workers are slammed because rising infection rates packed hospitals to the rafters. In dire need of bodies (to treat people and administer vaccines), LA DPH issued a call for healthcare volunteers.
Richard Kang, the Chief of Pediatrics and Medical Director of Northridge Hospital Medical Center, believed it is a medical professional’s social responsibility to help out. “People are overworked and really there’s no choice but to ask for more help,” he said. Kang continued: “In the end, the reason we’re doing this is that we want to protect the community from the disease and it’s going to benefit everyone, even the people giving the vaccines.”
But not everyone is fully on board. Kang’s wife, Sonia Smith-Kang, worked as a critical care registered nurse for 15 years before creating Culturas. Her main worry about the call for volunteers is the lack of compensation, though willing participants get vaccinated. “How do I reconcile with wanting to help and with the fact that it’s unpaid? There is anxiety in potentially putting yourself in harm and bringing back the disease to your family,” she said.
She added: “It actually upset me because I felt like there was a failure on the part of my local government all the way to the federal level. It’s indicative of the larger problem of where we lack in infrastructure.”
“In a pandemic-fueled recession, we must be compensated for the work we do. They [governmental bodies] have the money but where is it going?” wondered the mother of four. Smith-Kang is researching further into the matter of volunteering and remains undecided.
An important section in the newsletter includes tips to ease possible side effects of the virus. Many Americans are apprehensive about vaccination because of reactions that vary from soreness in the arm to mild fevers. But health care officials and scientific evidence stress the importance of prevention rather than cure. The symptoms of COVID-19 are far worse and even life-threatening while reactions to the vaccine are temporary and mild unless the person has extreme allergies. There is no guarantee either if reactions will even occur.
The county newsletter stated: “These are normal and show that your body is learning to build up immunity. Having these types of side effects soon after vaccination does NOT mean that you have COVID-19.” It goes on, “Vaccine side effects are more common after the second dose and in younger people. They usually do not last long, and you should feel better within a day or two.”
Here are the main takeaways from the newsletter:
- In case of arm soreness, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth to reduce pain and discomfort. It may also help to use or exercise your arm.
- To reduce discomfort from fever, drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly. Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) can help with pain, fever, headache, or discomfort. Do not take these medicines before getting the vaccine.
- As with any medicine, it is rare but possible to have a serious reaction, such as not being able to breathe. It is very unlikely that this will happen. If it does, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Contact your doctor if you have questions, if your symptoms last more than two days, if they start more than two days after you got the vaccine, or if they get worse or worry you.
Skip that Super Bowl party
Healthcare officials are bracing themselves for the socialization that might happen when the Super Bowl starts on Sunday (February 7). Gathering to watch the famed football series over food and drinks is one of the many quintessential American pastimes. It’s also a tradition that needs to pause as the pandemic devastates LA and its hospital capacity. As of a few weeks ago, county air regulation rules were relaxed to make way for cremations beyond the legal monthly limit. The escalating COVID-related deaths caused a backlog of human remains in mortuaries.
Such grim circumstances caused officials to propose a call to action in the newsletter. “The serious consequences of gathering indoors with people outside of your household to watch the Super Bowl is just not worth it,” it said. “Enjoy the game, cheer for your team, and do it all from a comfortable chair or couch in your home with those you live with. Connect virtually to your friends. This weekend, we ask that you not share with others your respiratory droplets, which are more easily spread when we raise our voices, sing, and chant,” beckoned the email blast.
Soon, appointments for both the first and second doses can be booked at the same time. Check here for more information on the second shot.