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Vaccine Inequity Prevalent in Hawaiian Gardens

BY BRIAN HEWS • March 16, 2021

The effects of the vaccine inequity are being felt in the tiny town of Hawaiian Gardens. The closest vaccination site and it’s 10 miles away in Downey and that’s  causing problems for many residents in the city.

As of this week only 9% of Hawaiian Gardens residents have been vaccinated compared to 18% in Lakewood and nearly 27% in Cerritos.

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer is in favor of providers giving out the shots instead of “putting a vaccination site in every neighborhood. Our strategy has been to figure out ways to help them build their capacity.”

But that has not happened in Hawaiian Gardens.

Trying to get a site has been met with the usual red tape. Hawaiian Gardens Councilwoman Myra Maravilla and the other elected officials have asked for help from Congressional representatives, LA County Supervisors, local elected officials, and the county’s Department of Public Health, so far no answer.

Maravilla says Ferrar’s strategy won’t work in the city “To say we will partner with local providers is no good,  there’s really not much here, we are one square mile. In larger cities you can go through your doctor, but a lot of people here don’t have a doctor.”

That is a reflection of the city’s income demographic, which site around a median of $50,000 with many classified as essential workers.

Hawaiian Gardens officials have been asking for mobile sites but health officials have been slow. “We’ve asked for the mobile unit sites several times, no one has answered, it’s like the Wild Wild West,” said Maravilla.

Meanwhile, shots will remain scarce, with Long Beach and Orange County both having their own health departments, and access to the vaccine that Hawaiian Gardens residents don’t. For some reason shots from HG doctors are few and pharmacies have it, but they’re not on the state’s appointment portal.

Maravilla said, “It’s vaccine inequity, as witnessed by smaller community’s high infection rates, it’s a direct correlation with the health department’s local strategy. The spotlight is on equity, but not much is going on. They talk of inequity, but there is little action to correct the problem.”