Governing article by: Alan Greenblatt
Oscar Humberto works in landscaping. All of his coworkers have been infected by the coronavirus. Humberto had a bad enough case of COVID-19 that he was forced to miss several days of work. Nevertheless, he remained reluctant to get vaccinated. “I was afraid a little bit,” he says. “It’s weird to me.”
Finally, his wife insisted. Once he was ready, Humberto received a free vaccine one Saturday at a pop-up clinic conveniently located a block from his home. He was even offered his choice of a $25 gift card from Target or a pair of grocery stores.
The clinic was run by the Marin County health department. Marin County lies north of San Francisco, just across the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s one of the most affluent counties in the country, but it has pockets of deep poverty, including the neighborhood where Humberto lives. “The Canal neighborhood in San Rafael is one of the poorest Census tracts in the state of California,” says Omar Carrera, CEO of Canal Alliance, the nonprofit that hosted the county’s vaccination clinic.
Concentrated poverty creates many problems, but in terms of public health it allowed the county to target its outreach efforts. Marin County worked with Canal Alliance — along with numerous other nonprofits, hospitals, schools and other partners — to reach populations that might lack the resources to arrange vaccinations easily for themselves.
Early on, the health department set a goal of keeping every community within 10 percent of the county’s overall vaccination rate. It hosts weekly meetings with health-care providers to track where vaccinations are lagging, and then deploys mobile vaccination clinics into those areas. “I would say 90 percent of our work was really dedicated to 30 percent of our community,” says Matt Willis, Marin County’s public health officer.
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