How this mobile health unit represents the last mile of the coronavirus pandemic – Daily News
As vice president of operations for a shipping company in Valencia, Marco Pelaez has done all he can to keep his employees safe during the coronavirus pandemic, from mandatory testing, social distancing, supply personal protective equipment and allowing employees to take time off for the slightest illness.
But at the time of getting vaccinated, many of AMS Fulfillment’s 400 employees were resistant for a variety of reasons, Pelaez said.
âNow that the vaccines are available, I felt like there was a circle that has yet to be closed,â Pelaez said. “The next part was going to be the hardest.”
Pelaez turned to Veritas Testing & Vaccines, a private Manhattan Beach-based mobile COVID clinic that offers testing and vaccinations at sites in Los Angeles County.
In May, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health coordinated with 126 mobile sites like the one operated by Veritas. The service is free to participants or organizations that host the mobile unit. The costs are ultimately billed to the patient’s insurance company or reimbursed through the Coronavirus Relief Funds.
The company is working to vaccinate more people in the hardest-hit communities, including largely black and Latino populations where essential jobs and nearby living conditions more easily spread the virus.
In LA County, 67% of residents aged 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine with 58% fully vaccinated, as of June 20, according to DPH. By race and ethnicity, differences in vaccination rates are stark, with 74% of Asians and 64% of whites having at least one dose, while 44% of blacks and 53% of Latinos have had at least one dose.
Pelaez wanted to make the vaccination of employees as easy as possible. He also thought that if they could see their colleagues getting the vaccine, maybe it would encourage more people to do so.
The plan worked, Pelaez said. At the first clinic, around 70 staff and their families were vaccinated. Next, nearly 100 other blows received. In total, nearly 40% of workers are now at least partially vaccinated, he said.
And now there’s even more interest, so Pelaez is planning another visit with Veritas on July 15.
“All the employees who did not want to be vaccinated, they come to me and ask me when the next vaccination clinic will take place,” Pelaez said.
An even greater motivation was the ability to remove their masks once workers were fully vaccinated.
âThe workers were really happy to take off their masks,â he said.
Kristopher Sims, managing partner of Veritas, said the idea for the company came about a year ago in June when the coronavirus tests were pretty catastrophic. Test results were taking two weeks and spots were hard to find, he said.
Originally, they focused on testing at critical businesses that were to remain open during the shutdown. As the pandemic progressed, their focus shifted to industries that are reopening, such as Hollywood productions. Then the vaccine came in and they started working with companies like AMS.
âIt’s most useful in an employer setting where someone doesn’t have time off or has infrequent interactions with the health care system,â Sims said.
The partnership with DPH has directed some of their efforts to underserved communities. They arrive in churches, cafes, school districts, career centers and more. They settled at Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza on Remembrance Day.
Sims said the key is to associate with respected people in the community they go to.
âA random person telling you to get the vaccine is not going to change your mind,â Sims said. “What you want is someone respected in the community who is doing outreach.”
On Sunday, June 27, the team arrived in downtown Los Angeles to set up a pop-up clinic at the LAPD Rampart division headquarters with the nonprofit CIELO. This women-led group represents indigenous migrant communities in Los Angeles, primarily Guatemala and Oaxaca, Mexico.
A team of two vaccinators and three to register people set up in pop-up tents to administer the vaccines. They were joined by others who handed out bags of groceries and a hot lunch and offered health checkups.
Isai Pazos, group director for vaccines, said it was a way to accommodate multiple requests at once. The clinics have been a great success in getting more members of their community vaccinated, he said. Every two to three weeks, they hold a vaccination clinic and have so far administered vaccines to more than 2,000 people. They would do about 300 vaccinations on Sunday, he said.
“We are trying to increase the number by educating people because they get a lot of false information from unreliable sources,” Pazos said.
One of the rumors, he said, suggested that people would turn into zombies or be unable to have children because of the vaccine, which is not true. A motivator for getting the shot, Pazos said, is that people can once again attend parties without a mask.
Odilia Romero, executive director of CIELO, said it was a challenge to reach members of the indigenous community as not all of them speak Spanish. There is a collection of 21 languages ââspoken by CIELO members, she said.
âIt’s really important to be here because it’s the largest indigenous population in Guatemala,â she said.
One of the vaccinated on Sunday was Apolonio Jurez from Guatemala, who explained in his native K’iche, a Mayan language, through several translators – one from K’iche to Spanish, the other from Spanish to English – why he got the vaccine.
âI got it because it’s the right thing to do,â he said.