County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Group Works to Ensure Doses for All Residents

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– The COVID-19 Vaccine Equity group has been meeting monthly to address the issues related to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution and best practices among every population segment of San Bernardino County.

Coordinated through San Bernardino County Behavioral Health and Public Health departments, more than 20 community partners regularly participate in these Vaccine Equity group meetings. The partners include the Inland Empire HIV Planning Council, Young Visionaries, Westside Action Group, Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, Rolling Start, Inland Empire Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Team and the El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center.

In addition, since the beginning of the pandemic, Behavioral Health has held or participated in more than 50 COVID-19 related virtual events with community partners including Loma Linda University Health, California State University San Bernardino, San Bernardino Valley College, and the City of Rancho Cucamonga.

“We are thankful for the opportunity to meet with and listen to community members, and for their willingness to share how they have been uniquely impacted by COVID-19,” said Behavioral Health Director Dr. Veronica Kelley. “This information allows us to pivot our efforts and to ensure all voices are being heard and considered in the community vaccination process.”

Kelley also sits on the state’s Community Vaccine Advisory Committee, alongside California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, MD, and California Department of Public Health and State Health Officer Tomas Aragon, MD. The committee meets weekly to discuss best practices for community engagement, equity and vaccine acceptability. Kelley is the only behavioral health director in the state to have a seat at this table.

The County’s Behavioral Health and Public Health departments have long worked to ensure equitable access to behavioral and physical health care through the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI) and Public Health’s Community and Outreach programs. These efforts have resulted in the development of strong relationships with community-based programs and their stakeholders, and with the onset of the pandemic, provided a trusted outlet for communication regarding COVID-19.

“We had anticipated the particular importance in equitable vaccine distribution and the specific difficulties involving that, as well as vaccine hesitancy throughout our community,” said Public Health Officer Michael A. Sequeira, MD. “Through the COVID-19 Vaccine Equity group and other education and outreach programs, we are able to address these concerns to ensure that all regions and groups in our county are informed and choose to get vaccinated.”

For more information on the COVID-19 Vaccine Equity group, email equity@dbh.sbcounty.gov.

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