On Jan. 23, 2021, Keck Medicine of USC opened up 300 slots for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to the 65-and-older family members of Environmental Health Services employees and cafeteria workers. Maria Saravia, center, was able to bring her parents, Sara, 81, and Juan, 83, to the Saturday vaccination session.
For Nidia Salas, whose son Marco Antonio Salas signed her up for the vaccine, being able to receive the first dose with an appointment already slated for her second dose was a relief, given the recent news about vaccine supply.
Keck Medicine has been increasing efforts to raise vaccination access to the predominantly Latino communities around the Health Sciences Campus. Given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latino and African American communities, efforts to quickly vaccinate these high-risk community members are incredibly important.
“A lot of folks in these communities live in multi-generational families,” said Felipe Osorno, executive administrator for continuum of care operations and value improvement at Keck Medicine. “This is where we’ve seen very high numbers of COVID-19 infections and mortality. So we wanted to make sure that we started our outreach that was more specific to those who are very vulnerable.”
Osorno has been instrumental in leading the multilingual effort to boost interest and educate the EVS workers through in-person meetings and Spanish-language materials.
“A lot of these resources available online are not really in language that a lot of folks can easily understand,” he said. “So I think eliminating those barriers from health literacy is important.”
For the employees who volunteered to staff the Saturday event, the busy day was over in a flash.
“I’m amazed every day by the teamwork and compassion I see. Our days are filled with little moments with tremendous impact,” said Lily Tejeda, an ophthalmic service specialist. “I was so touched to see everybody’s smile after the vaccine and also thanking us at the end for all the hard work that was put into this event. These moments improve the patient experience, but more importantly it reflects the KNOWN standards and our authentic culture.”
For Nelly Durán, whose sister is an EVS employee, her initial fears about the vaccine gave way to determination to get her shot after her daughter became very sick with COVID-19 in December. “When I told her I was getting it, she was so happy,” Durán told the Los Angeles Times.
“We are all reading of the challenges L.A. County faces to get the vaccines rolled out,” said Smitha Ravipudi, MPH, CEO of USC Care and Ambulatory Care Services. “It is a significant undertaking, one that has come with daily, if not hourly hurdles. The nation is facing this same struggle. All of you took this head on and made it your selfless mission to make the impossible, possible. While so many sit behind the scenes, working long hours, often through the night... please know that we know who you are, feel your commitment shine through, and are so unbelievably grateful.”
Keck Medicine plans to offer further opportunities for employees' family members who are 65+ to be vaccinated, as well as patients who are 65+, in the coming weeks.