When UC San Francisco researchers and their community partners in the Unidos en Salud collaboration asked people coming to their COVID-19 testing site in San Francisco’s Mission District if they wanted to be vaccinated, a whopping 86 percent said yes.
That is a higher number of people willing to be vaccinated than several national, statewide or even Bay Area surveys have shown – and a testament to the trust that UCSF’s Diane Havlir, MD, and colleagues have built over many months of working side by side with the Latino Task Force to help a community that has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus.
Now, with the help of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Unidos en Salud is bringing vaccines to the people of the Mission District. With limited supply, the first doses are going to community health workers and those who are 65 years and up.
“The data are quite overwhelming in dispelling the myth that the entire Latinx community is vaccine hesitant,” said Havlir, a UCSF professor of medicine who collaborated with the leaders of the Latino Task Force to create Unidos en Salud, which provides rapid “test and respond” services at the BART plaza at 24th and Mission.
Carina Marquez, MD, a UCSF assistant professor of medicine and a leader in the effort to develop the rapid response model with the Latino Task Force, said the community vaccine hub is the perfect complement to the testing site.
“With this vaccination hub now in place, we will be able identify and support those who become infected during this surge, and we’ll also be ready to scale up and protect the community with vaccines once the supply opens up.”
The Mission site is the first of what will become a network of City-operated community vaccination sites to bring vaccines to the neighborhoods – including the Bayview, Excelsior and Visitacion Valley – with the highest infection rates for COVID-19 and limited access to health care services.
“This vaccination site represents an important step forward in providing convenient, culturally competent vaccine access to the Mission District, a neighborhood that has been highly impacted by the tragedies of COVID-19,” said San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed. The network, she added, builds upon the successful partnership the city developed with UCSF and the Latino Task Force to extend vaccination to the Mission community, and “will help turn the tide against COVID-19.”
Havlir and Joe DeRisi, PhD, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, have combined forces with community partners in the Unidos en Salud collaboration to study the virus’ path through the local community by identifying evolving strains, and to understand what public health measures would be most effective for working people, who are being exposed both on the job and in crowded living conditions at home.
Private funding to UCSF for the Mission District vaccination hub was provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the McKinnon Family Foundation, Carl Kawaja and Wendy Holcombe, and donors to the UCSF COVID-19 Response Fund and the Unidos en Salud/United in Health San Francisco Project.
“We at UCSF are eager to continue our ongoing partnership with the Mayor and the Department of Public Health to help protect our City’s most vulnerable communities from COVID-19,” said Sam Hawgood, MBBS, UCSF chancellor. “By continuing our collaborative community testing programs, and now making vaccines available in high-impact neighborhoods where the virus is spreading quickly, we can prevent more suffering and help to protect the entire city from this virus.”