This is a story about how a small city can do big things for its community nimbly and quickly when faced with huge challenges.
The residents of Paramount have been struggling when it comes to getting vaccinated for COVID-19. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, less than 9% of those living in town have gotten a shot.
Paramount is a working-class town with a population that is roughly 80% Hispanic. It is a demographic that has been ill-served by the vaccination rollout. Plus, the City has been impacted tremendously by the pandemic.
Paramount has the highest COVID-19 Death Rate and second highest Adjusted Positivity Rate among nine cities in our region.
Paramount ranks among the highest for cities in the County for uninsured adults and adults with COVID-19 high-risk preexisting conditions.
The difficulties of getting our older population, many of them low-income, inoculated include the intimidating appointment process, the lack of Internet access, problems reaching the large point of distribution sites, and the slow distribution of vaccine to local clinics and pharmacies.
Working within that system, Paramount officials have tried to make it easier for qualifying individuals to receive the vaccine – compiling a database of residents 65 and older to notify them of open appointments, helping make appointments, providing free transportation, and asking local medical clinics with leftover vaccine to reach out.
But a strong emphasis has been on getting a vaccination site opened in town, as the numbers of the vaccinated in Paramount have remained low. The City Council approved funding for these efforts and a significant portion of staff members have been dedicated to making it happen. Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon was also called upon to urge Governor Gavin Newsom to deliver these resources to the underserved communities of Southeast Los Angeles County.
Letters, phone calls, and meetings have been sent, made, and held with Federal, State, and County agencies. A plan was offered to allow Paramount residents access to nearby Long Beach Health Department locations.
These actions paid off this week, and the vaccine came to Paramount in a big way.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) set up a mobile clinic at Paramount Park from February 23 through February 26. Priority was given to residents 65 and older, disabled residents, and healthcare workers, with 250 vaccinations available each day.
The timeline for its implementation and swift actions on the ground made it possible for 1,000 Paramount residents to get their first dose, which will be followed up in three weeks by the second.
Representatives from FEMA, Cal OES, CAL FIRE, and the California Highway Patrol, and volunteers from AmeriCorps along with nurses and paramedics from throughout the nation assisted with the mobile vaccine site.
“The cohesive working relationship with all involved at the Paramount Community Center created a very smooth and streamlined operation,” said Veronica Verde, FEMA Public Information Officer. “The predetermined appointment times, which were organized by City personnel, catered to underserved communities. All involved are proud of the efforts put forth to serve those in need.”
“We will keep doing everything we can to get everyone in Paramount vaccinated,” Mayor Peggy Lemons said. “And we will reach out to our residents when other such opportunities arise.”
During these chaotic, confusing times, this is a success story that could be an inspiration to all.