By Alfredo Santana
COMMERCE — Surrounded by elected officials from throughout Southeast Los Angeles, county Supervisor Janice Hahn announced April 13 at the Commerce Senior Citizens Center the start of a COVID-19 vaccination drive targeting residents 50 years of age and older.
Hahn, who represents the Fourth District, which covers much of Southeast Los Angeles County, said the public health effort would provide vaccines to anyone seeking a second booster or missing their initial shots.
The vaccination drive will add a mobile clinic to reach out to residents in their communities, including unincorporated portions, unable to drive to the vaccination site or without reliable transportation.
“We are coming together to send a message to resident urging them to get boosted,” Hahn said. “We know that vaccines work, but their effectiveness wanes overtime. If you did the right thing and got vaccinated last year, you protected yourself during the last surge. But we know your immunity is not as high anymore.”
Hahn told residents to look out for themselves with emphasis on seniors and residents with health conditions that compromise their immune system.
“We are most at risk from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. Things are getting more dangerous again,” Hahn said.
County public health authorities are closely monitoring the Omicron’s BA.2 variant, responsible for rising transmissions on the East Coast.
In light of rising COVID-19 cases, Hahn said she got her second booster on April 7, “because I knew I wanted to keep myself protected.”
The Commerce vaccination center, located at 2555 Commerce Way, will offer free shots from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sunday to anyone who needs one.
“Over the next several weeks, my mobile clinic is going to go to every city and unincorporated area in Southeast Los Angeles,” Hahn said. “It’s going to be at your parks, your libraries, your shopping centers, your community events. It’s important because it’s going to meet people where they are and make it easy as possible to get vaccinated and boosted.
”[Southeast Los Angeles] was hit hard by the pandemic, and it could happen again. And that’s why we are here outside of the Commerce Senior Center,” Hahn said.
Nurses attending the Commerce’s vaccination site are part of the “Vax on the Go” program, and they will pivot to bring vaccines to local businesses and churches.
They provided COVID-19 vaccinations at Boulevard’s Burgers in Bell, Food-4-Less in Maywood, St. Marcelinus Catholic Church in Commerce and St. Mattias Catholic Church in Huntington Park.
Residents who received their initial vaccinations more than five months ago qualify to get their first booster. The same applies to people 50 years an older with health conditions that compromise their natural resistance and have not been boosted.
Commerce Mayor Oralia Rebollo thanked Hahn for attending to the health needs of Southeast Los Angeles residents, and said accessibility to vaccines are key for residents to take advantage and remain protected against COVID.
“She is committed, as well as the city of Commerce and all the SELA cities are committed to the accessibility to these resources,” Rebollo said. “We are so happy for the vaccines you brought to our senior center and the mobile clinic that you brought not just to Commerce but to our region.”
Cudahy Mayor Elizabeth Alcantar said it is important to remain diligent and remember what everyone went through in the last two years.
“During the pandemic, our communities lost so much,” Alcantar said. “They lost loved ones, family members, colleagues, neighbors. They lost their wages, their jobs. Many lost their homes as well. It’s important to remember that the pandemic is still here, it has not disappeared, and we need to be vigilant and diligent.”
Bell Gardens City Councilwoman Lisette Flores said she is the mother of two unvaccinated toddlers due to lack of authorized shots and encouraged all parents to receive boosters and vaccines because “their herd immunity is us.”
“For everyone saying that they’ve made it, a lot of people did not,” Flores said. “And let’s remember them and think about the children and the future because we don’t know what the long-lasting effects in the future will look like.”
Commerce Councilman Leonard Mendoza said his city has a 95% full vaccination rate, and challenged his neighbors to try to catch up.
“Together we can beat the virus and be able to move forward,” Mendoza said.
Dr. Alicia Chang, a county infectious disease specialist and regional health officer for East and Southeast Los Angeles, said that transmissions increased during the week of April 10 to 17, with a positive daily average of 960 cases, a 23% rise compared to the 783 cases the previous week.
She said COVID-19 hospitalization numbers remained stable, with 270 patients hospitalized last week, and deaths remained low.
However, Chang warned that as more cases are confirmed, they will be followed by a pattern of additional hospitalizations and deaths.
Chang said a few weeks ago the Public Health Department reached out to more than 1,000 social service agencies that work with seniors and patients at homes to give them information on how to request mobile vaccination services for clients in need, and the efforts continue.
Additional assistance is available by calling (833) 540-0473 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or by visiting the how to get vaccinated link at www.lacounty.gov.
“Let’s do our very best to make use of our powerful tools at hand: vaccinations, testing, masking,” Chang added. “Let’s keep ourselves and those we love, and those who are most severely at risk protected.”
Other area leaders present at the launching of the COVID-19 vaccination drive were South Gate Councilwoman Denise Diaz, Lynwood Councilwoman Marisela Santana, Montebello school board President Jeniffer Gutierrez, Montebello school board member Liliana Magaña, Bell Mayor Alicia Romero, Maywood Councilman Eddie de la Riva and Bell Gardens Mayor Pro Tem Jorgel Chavez.