Volunteer-led COVID-19 vaccine clinic in hard-hit Del Paso Heights in jeopardy

Local News

This story has been updated with a statement from Sacramento County.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – Vaccine sites are quickly becoming commonplace as the state moves forward with the rollout, but one site in Sacramento has a few uncommon aspects. 

The site at Grant Union High School — in the heart of Del Paso Heights — sits in one of the communities with the highest rates of COVID-19 in the county. 

But the area has no regular public vaccination site. 

“It only makes sense to take this down into the community,” said Dr. Kawanaa Carter. “It’s not brain surgery.”

And Carter would know, she’s a brain surgeon. 

“People of color are worse off when they get infected, the morbidity is worse, the mortality is higher,” Carter explained. 

But their vaccination rate is also lower. Black and Latino Californians are — according to state data — notably underrepresented when it comes to vaccinations. 

That’s why Carter and several other volunteers put together the clinic, which is independent and not run by a particular group. 

“Nurses who trained me as a neurosurgery resident, people who have been vaccinated who just want to give back. Some people who worked in the O.R. with me are here, friends, friends of friends,” Carter said. 

The clinic at GUHS is intended for the people hit the hardest by the people in a position to help.

By Saturday, they’ll have fully vaccinated about 2,500 people since Feb. 4, according to Carter. She says they get their doses from another clinic supplied by Sacramento County. 

Twin Rivers School District helps with the logistics, but other than that, Carter says the only thing their clinic costs the government is the vaccine itself. 

“The only thing I’m asking you for is to support me by giving me doses, and I’m doing the work that they say they want to do,” Carter said. 

According to Carter, that work is in jeopardy. 

On the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom talked about the importance of setting aside 40% of vaccine doses for the most vulnerable ZIP codes in the state, Carter says Sacramento County is cutting the clinics off. 

In a statement to FOX40, the county said the vaccine site was originally meant to be a “small pop-up vaccination clinic to serve 60 Del Paso Heights community members who were experiencing digital and language barriers.”

And since there was a “rapid expansion”, the county says “there are safety concerns.”

The site will no longer be able to give patients their first doses, but they will be allowed to give out second doses to those who need them. 

“It makes me sad and a little bit angry to know that we’re doing the right thing out here and it’s like pulling teeth,” Carter said. 

But she added that seeing the power of people to see a need and fill it tells her to keep pushing forward. 

“It speaks of hope, right? Hope of people not dying anymore in this community,” Carter said. 

According to the county, they are working to address the safety concerns and “pair the site with another provider at the site in order to support the capacity increase.”

The county’s full statement can be read below.

This location was requested to be set up as a small pop-up vaccination clinic to serve 60 Del Paso Heights community members who were experiencing digital and language barriers. Through their connection with one of the County vaccine providers, they received their vaccines allocation and includes second doses.

Sacramento County Public Health is working to ensure the adherence to the State and CDC guidelines on vaccine distribution and allocation. For example, appropriate location selection, safe handling and documentation of vaccine doses, collecting demographic data of recipients, and many others. In addition, we work closely with our local partners, health systems, community based organizations, and schools to ensure a more equitable and inclusive outreach.

Since this clinic was originally set up as a small pop up clinic and now the rapid expansion, there are safety concerns. SCPH is working to address those concerns to ensure appropriate storage and handling of the vaccine, and safety protocols to ensure the safety of the patients. In addition to addressing the safety issues, we are working to pair the site with another provider at the site in order to support the capacity increase.

Sacramento County

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