On March 18, San Mateo County sent out a press release announcing expanded access to COVID-19 vaccinations geared toward communities highly impacted by the virus. As council member of one of those cities in question, I am grateful for their acute attention over the disproportionate impact of this pandemic. The words of Supervisor David Canepa are exemplary: "We are laser-focusing our vaccination efforts by providing clinics in highly impacted ZIP codes to get more doses in arms right in the neighborhood you live and the language you speak."
The city of East Palo Alto makes up 4% of San Mateo County. Nevertheless, we make up 10.9% of all positive cases. My call is simple: I urge the county to commit to an equitable distribution of no less than 10.9% of the vaccine distribution for my community.
The reasons are painfully known, but allow me to cite two: we serve, and proudly I add, as the essential workforce of the Silicon Valley. If tech companies like Facebook, Google and Sun Microsystems provide the Silicon, we provide the backbone, the sweat that never takes a day off, the salt of the earth that keeps the Valley rich — that cleans offices, that caters its events, that risks its life, day in day out, without even so much of a demand.
There is much fanfare around the county's turn to the orange tier. In one respect I understand this excitement. We are all fatigued from this yearlong recession. These months of sheltering in place have damaged our mental health, our bodies, and so many of us are yearning to return to some sense normalcy.
But as an elected official, I simply cannot do that at the expense of my community.
I remind the county not of my standards, but of their very own. In attachment A of the announcement's fact sheet, they highlight a commitment to "double vaccine allotment for hardest hit communities."
My parents come from a generation that has been reared to keep its head down, to not rock the boat out of fear.
But that is not my generation.
And what is the point of being the first generation of citizens, to this county and country, if I do not speak on behalf of those too busy or afraid (or both) to do so.
It is in this spirit that I remind readers and elected officials alike that the people of East Palo Alto, Belle Haven and North Fair Oaks do not just deserve more vaccines, but are entitled to them.
To date, there have been no mass vaccination sites for the south of the county. And while we are grateful for the neighborhood vaccination clinics made possible by collaboration with the county and local clinics like the Ravenswood Health Center, as the aforementioned statistics show, it does not constitute a fair share. The moral, economic and equity-minded strength for this argument is well-established. What we need now is the political one.
And so, County Manager Mike Callagy, vaccine czar Justin Mates, Supervisor Warren Slocum, Assemblyman Marc Berman and State Sen. Josh Becker, it is in the spirit of Supervisor Canepa's words that I implore you all to be "laser focused" on communities like mine, to commit to the hard number of no less than 10.9% of the vaccine supply for the city of East Palo Alto, and ideally, to commit to establishing a mass vaccination site in our area so as to benefit not just us, but our sisters and brothers in Menlo Park's Belle Haven, in unincorporated Redwood City, and in the other "hardest hit communities." Affirm to my constituents that even as we march to orange, the Black and brown will not get left behind.
Antonio López is a member of the East Palo Alto City Council.