OPINION: Why was it so hard for my mother to find a vaccine appointment?

Image of Librada Leopo’s bandage from Covid-19 Vaccine/ Image by: Julie Leopo

Is the fact that there are so many ways to make an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccine making the process harder than it should be? In my mothers case, it was.   

Finding an appointment to receive a covid-19 vaccine was easier than my 53 year old mother, Librada, knew. 

For days, my mother had called different primary doctors as well as community clinics, and all they could do for her was add her to a waiting list. 

“I speak English, and I still couldn’t understand how to get the vaccine,” blurted my mom after  I made her appointment, and it shook me to my core. 

For years my mother has been a translator for all my Tias/ Tios and grandparents for all their health needs. Being a Mexican immigrant that knows English, is her golden ticket to communicating as well as making appointments and understanding a doctor’s diagnosis. 

However, even with all the research and questions she asked, the vaccination process wasn’t easy to understand. She didn’t know where vaccination clinics were, how to access government websites, and for a mother who doesn’t have the time to be civically engaged, this presented a problem— lack of information.  

Librada, a mother of  seven children, has no time to dig deep into county politics–a housewife, housework all day, cooks three meals a day and takes care of my siblings that still live at home. On top of all of that she has weekly doctor appointments for her health issues, and helps manage  appointments for my grandparents. 

Since March of last year, she has taken quarantine seriously. Only going out when needed, and although she is a devoted Catholic woman- she hasn’t stepped foot in a church service for over a year. 

Her scope of the world had become smaller and her lifeline was my expertise. 

After I listened to my mothers frustrations, I decided to step in and got her a vaccination appointment. She was only aware of the online portal after I made her appointment myself. It only makes me wonder: How long would my mom have waited to get her vaccine if I didn’t step in? 

My 77 year old grandma, who only knows how to use the speed dials on her flip phone, knew that she wanted to receive the vaccine but didnt know where to go or who to call-again, until I once again stepped in.

Thinking about it now, there is a whole demographic of individuals who have no idea how the vaccination process works or what is the easiest way to obtain one.

This is not to say that there hasn’t been efforts in the city of Santa Ana to reach marginalized groups, but in a city of more than 300,000 people, it can be quite impossible if the resources are not used strategically.

I got my grandmother her appointment through Latino Health Access call center, a community group based in Santa Ana, that has been organizing in lower income neighborhoods throughout Santa Ana and Anaheim to bring accessibility to the vaccine efforts and testing. 

My mother, who couldn’t get an appointment anywhere, found an appointment immediately after I signed her up though myturn.gov

She even went as far to wait at a CVS like she had heard of others doing. She asked the pharmacist if she could be vaccinated, ultimately getting rejected, citing that signups were through CVS.com and no walk-ups were available. Even then, she could not get a single appointment through CVS pharmacy, when she looked online. 

As a cancer survivor, diabetic and wife to an essential worker, my mother has lived in constant worry of the fact that she lives in a city with the highest Covid case count in Orange County, Santa Ana. 

For my mother, the vaccine is hope, but even so, hope has become difficult to obtain. 

After my mother was vaccinated on March 19 at the Santa Ana College pod, she immediately called my Tia, who lives blocks away from the site, “I have gotten my vaccine! Please call Julie for more information,” she told her in Spanish. I immediately gave my cousins information to help my tia and tio make an appointment. 

It’s through these interactions that really makes me question if our local government is equipped to handle a public health outbreak and why there isn’t more outreach available to the public. It’s no coincidence that two women who live within a three mile radius of each other didn’t know how to sign up for a vaccine. They are both wives to essential workers and live in lower income communities. 

Orange County Board of Supervisors have made it a point to reach these hard hit communities through PR firms but my family has yet to be on the receiving end of those promises.

 

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