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Health
California Leads Nation in Vaccinations.
Here's Why

By Rory J. O'Connor | April 22, 2021

After the unforeseen suspension of shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine in early April following reports of unexpected side effects, thousands of vaccine appointments throughout California were at risk for being canceled. Unless that supply could be replaced, 8,700 appointments for the next 48 hours would have to be cancelled at 55 clinics across the state.

Thanks to accurate and timely data from the state’s My Turn system, sources of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines were quickly identified that could be shifted to fill much of the need. By noon that same day, enough doses had been reallocated to cover 4,000 appointments. By 5 p.m., the state had managed to preserve 70%t of the appointments, including setting up second dose appointments for those Californians. The remaining 30% were promptly rescheduled to other days when supply could be accommodated.

This is the power of having appropriate data in a timely way.

The network was tested again just two days later, when the state opened eligibility to everyone 16 years old or older. My Turn handled 1 million queries that day without any loss in performance. Despite the vaccine supply from the federal government still falling short of demand, seven out of eight eligible people using My Turn were able to find appointments.

Less than three months after California began to streamline its existing vaccine network into an enhanced vaccination provider network managed by the state’s third-party administrator (TPA) Blue Shield of California, the most populous state in the U.S. has made significant progress. California has not only administered more vaccine doses by far than anywhere else in the country – it is one of the most vaccinated places in the world. So far, 31 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in California. That’s more than all other nations around the world except for China, India, the United Kingdom and Brazil.

The TPA-supported collaboration among state agencies, county public health officials, thousands of providers, and a myriad of experts and advisors has been instrumental in enabling the state to administer an average of 477,000 vaccine doses daily, the equivalent of vaccinating a city the size of Long Beach, Calif.

As a result, the CDC now reports that California’s seven-day rate of new COVID-19 cases of 40.3 per 100,000 population is far lower than the national average of 135.3 cases and better than every state but Hawaii.

“California is leading the way in vaccinating an enormous population rapidly, equitably and safely,” said Jeff Robertson, senior vice president at Blue Shield of California. “This is the result of hundreds of dedicated people who represent state agencies, local health departments, vaccine providers, the TPA and other stakeholders working together with a common goal of saving more lives by making vaccines more quickly available to all Californians. We are proud to be called on to do our part at Blue Shield of California.”

Sports
National Basketball Association (NBA) was discussing educating the African American community about receiving COVID-19 vaccines

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
Posted: January 28, 2021

                                                    Los Angeles Lakers Superstar LeBron James

When Dr. Nadine Burke Harris heard last week that the National Basketball Association (NBA) was discussing educating the African American community about receiving COVID-19 vaccines, she said partnering with the league could be a game-changer in the state of California.

Dr. Burke Harris, the Surgeon General of California, said she would embrace that strategy with open arms.

“Yes, absolutely. Please tell LeBron James to call me,” Dr. Burke Harris told California Black Media (CBM), referring to one of league’s most high-profile Black players. James plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. “I think it's a wonderful partnership and I am excited for that to happen because we want to use our trusted messengers.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Jan. 18 that the league’s players could use their influence to provide information to African Americans, other ethnic minorities, and the general public about vaccine safety and efficacy. It is something that the NBA is “particularly focused” on, he said.

“In the African American community, there has been an enormously disparate impact from COVID ... but now, somewhat perversely, there has been enormous resistance [to vaccinations] for understandable historical reasons,” Silver said. “If that resistance continues, it would be very much a double whammy to the Black community because the only way out of this pandemic is to get vaccinated.”

The Surgeon General, California Department of Public Health officials, medical experts, and community leaders joined a Zoom news briefing last week with African American media in the state organized by CBM and the Center at Sierra Health Foundation. Participants discussed how African American communities can continue to stay safe. They also talked about the state’s plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Burke Harris, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Los Angeles’ Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, and Shantay R. Davies-Balch, founder of Fresno’s Black Wellness and Prosperity Center, were speakers during the virtual news briefing. The group stressed the necessity of speeding up statewide vaccinations to reduce hospitalizations and stem the spread of the disease.

Silver said much of the mistrust about taking the vaccine in the Black community originated from a history of racism and malpractice against Blacks by the country’s medical establishment.

One specific example stands out: the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

In 1932, the United States Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, began a study to record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of understanding treatment programs for African Americans. It was called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.”

When penicillin was discovered and become the primary drug for treating syphilis in 1947, subjects were never provided the highly effective medication or a chance to resign from the study. The experiment continued until 1972 when the media exposed that it was still being conducted despite the fact a cure had been available for 25 years. A reporter from The Associated Press investigated the study and broke the news.

Nearly 400 participants of the study, primarily sharecroppers, suffered severe health problems, including blindness, mental illness, or death. The study also led to the uncovering of other medical atrocities committed on Black citizens.

In 1951, without her knowledge and consent, cancer cells were taken from Henrietta Lacks, a young Black woman with five children. The cells, later called “HeLa,” were used to study the results of toxins, drugs, hormones, and viruses without experimenting on humans.

Lacks died at the age of 31. Reportedly, many medical institutions and related businesses profited from her cells without sharing any of the largesse with her surviving family. Lacks’ case became a focal point of medical ethics, sparking debate about whether researchers should be required to conduct such studies without the subject’s permission.

Twenty-year-old Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton shared with the media his knowledge of the Tuskegee Study. He also said he was open to the idea of getting vaccinated for the NBA.

“I do understand why there is a drawback from some people with everything that has happened in the history of the world and vaccinations,” Haliburton said. “I’ve learned about the Tuskegee study and that crazy situation. I do understand how that can be crazy for African Americans. It’s their choice. It’s their bodies.”

Haliburton, who left Iowa State University after two seasons and entered the 2020 NBA Draft, is originally from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, north of Milwaukee. To deal with frigid temperatures, he said getting flu shots before the winter was routine.

“I myself, am just going to listen to the public officials and I plan on getting the vaccine,” Haliburton said. “At a young age, I got all my vaccinations. So, I don’t see any reasons to stop now. Internally, we’ve (Haliburton’s teammates and other players in the NBA) talked about it. There are guys in the league that say they will get it and there are guys that say they won’t. That’s their opinion. I am going to get vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said over the weekend that President Joe Biden has talked about using pharmacies, community vaccine centers, and mobile units to speed up the process of getting more people vaccinated.

Dr. Fauci said there will be a “revving up of the capabilities and implementation of getting larger numbers of people vaccinated,” including, the Black community.