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It could be harder for vulnerable communities to access latest COVID-19 vaccine. Here's why

Community clinics waiting for latest COVID-19 vaccine as major pharmacies get supply
Community clinics waiting for latest COVID-19 vaccine as major pharmacies get supply 03:03

The updated Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are now available at some pharmacies like CVS after the CDC and FDA signed off on them last week.

They target newer variants circulating.

This comes as positivity rates in the Bay Area remain high. The state's seven-day positivity rate is at 12.8%, according to the state's COVID-19 website. San Francisco and Santa Clara county's positivity rates are slightly higher than 7%.

San Mateo's is at 13.1%, Alameda's at 11.8%, Contra Costa's at 11.1% and Marin's at 12.7%.

UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said infection rates are high, but hospitalizations remain low. Still, he recommends people get the vaccine, especially with the new variants.

"Instead of only preventing serious disease, hospitalization and death, the second reason is it can actually give you a buffer against infection for a period of time," Chin-Hong said.

He adds it could also help prevent long COVID.

Nora Villagran is a San Jose resident who said she's just waiting for her healthcare provider to let her know when she can get it.

"This is a global epidemic and we are responsible for helping other people stay alive," Villagran said.

For Villagran, it's not just about her.

"By getting the vaccine, I'm protecting not just myself and my loved ones, but I'm protecting my neighbors, my family, people that I may come in contact with sitting next to here outside of Peet's Coffee," she said.

Those who are 65 and older and immunocompromised continue to be most at risk, Chin-Hong said.

But this vaccine rollout is different. While pharmacies like CVS have the vaccine now, other community clinics and organizations are waiting to get them.

Mission Food Hub is a nonprofit serving residents in the Mission District. KPIX 5 talked to them last week about the uptick in cases. Founder Roberto Hernández said they'll be offering the updated vaccine at no cost, but he's waiting to find out when that will actually be.

Others are waiting to know too.

Noha Aboelata is the founding CEO of Roots Community Health Center in the East Bay. She said they're waiting on details from the federal Bridge Access Program, which provides no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to adults without health insurance. They're anticipating knowing more in the coming days.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department will also help distribute doses through the same program. The county adds that for people who don't have health insurance, the Santa Clara Valley Healthcare Patient Access Department can help with enrolling in programs for which they may be eligible. They're encouraged to call 1-866-967-4677.

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