The Coliseum played a heroic role in vaccinating the Bay Area, even as it fell short of equity goals

Gabriel Hernandez had simply completed a job interview April 6 when his dad, Anthony, picked him up on his strategy to get vaccinated on the Oakland Coliseum. Whereas ready the required 15 minutes to see if he developed an allergic response, Anthony requested workers on the mass vaccination web site if Gabriel might additionally get a shot. As a younger man of colour who deliberate to be working a brand new job quickly, the technician obliged. 

“I didn’t even know I used to be going to get it,” Hernandez stated in a video he uploaded to his YouTube channel. 

The daddy and son chuckled when Shequilla, the registered nurse in a yellow reflective vest and light-weight blue medical gloves, requested if he was pregnant. “Gotta ask,” she stated. 

Gabriel pulled up the sleeve of his white T-shirt and took the shot in his left arm. 

“You’re vaccinated,” the nurse stated.

“It simply made sense to get vaccinated there, no the place else,” the 22-year-old A’s season ticket holder and lifelong Oakland resident stated in an interview. Hernandez considers the Coliseum to be his second house. Final Wednesday, he watched the A’s play the Astros from the stands.

The Hernandezes acquired two of the greater than half 1,000,000 doses given to Bay Space residents on the Coliseum. On Sunday, the Alameda County Public Well being Division closed down the vaccine operation on the Coliseum after 96 days in operation. 

Operating one of many state’s handful of mass vaccination websites at East Oakland’s sports activities and leisure mecca was an enormous enterprise, and never one with out its share of points. The county’s well being authorities have struggled to make sure vaccine photographs have been distributed equitably and the appointment system at occasions excluded key demographic teams. 

Nonetheless, the sheer numbers are an achievement: lots of of hundreds of individuals gained safety on the Coliseum in opposition to a virus that’s killed almost 3.5 million folks worldwide. The sports activities complicated’s parking zone served as a beacon of hope throughout one of the crucial unsure occasions in fashionable historical past.  

At its peak, the Coliseum was offering upwards of 8,000 photographs a day with 1,200 staff on web site. Within the few weeks earlier than it closed, this dropped to lower than 400 photographs a day and about 200 staff, in accordance with county well being officers. Multiple million Alameda County residents 16 and older—or greater than 76% of that inhabitants—have now acquired not less than one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In response to the Alameda County Public Well being Division, the Coliseum accounted for 18% of all vaccine doses given to county residents, not together with these given to individuals who dwell exterior the county.

Because the vaccination effort shifts to smaller, community-focused clinics led by “trusted messengers,” the Coliseum’s parking zone—an area that almost all Oaklanders affiliate with tailgating—may even be remembered for being the middle of an formidable vaccine effort throughout a once-in-a-century pandemic. Due to the success of the vaccine push within the Bay Space, tailgating might resume on the Coliseum after the state totally reopens on June 15, when the A’s play the Angels at house. 

“We’re working with the state to open up in a protected and accountable style,” Dave Kaval, A’s president, informed The Oaklandside. “We’re attempting to plan for a bit little bit of a grand re-opening on July 2nd.”

The Beginnings of the Coliseum vaccination web site

On Dec. 11, 2020, the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration issued the primary emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine was permitted every week later and doses had been instantly shipped to healthcare suppliers nationwide. However there was a logistical problem: each vaccines wanted to be saved extraordinarily chilly. This meant that there was a bonus to organising a couple of central places that would give out quite a few photographs, shortly.

Some Oakland leaders began wanting round for an area to ship vaccines and the Coliseum appeared an ideal match due to its huge parking zone accessible by a significant freeway and two public transportation programs. The huge 112-acre complicated was additionally accessible as a result of mass gatherings had been nonetheless out of the query. 

Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland’s vice mayor, was appointed to the Coliseum Authority Board in January and was quickly designated chair of the duty pressure to launch a large-scale vaccine web site. “We began engaged on setting that up even earlier than FEMA and Cal OES acquired concerned,” Kaplan stated, referring to the federal and state companies that might companion with the town and county. 

Nate Miley, vp of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and chair of Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, tweeted on Jan. 19 that the authority had permitted the Coliseum to be a mass vaccination web site. It had beforehand been thought-about as a doable discipline hospital to deal with COVID-19 sufferers however, fortunately, wasn’t wanted for that. 

The Coliseum’s large parking zone turned a stunning asset for Northern California through the pandemic. Credit score: Pete Rosos

On Feb. 3, the Biden-Harris administration and Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced the Coliseum could be one in all two  state-run, federally supported mass vaccination websites “centered on vaccinating underserved communities and people most affected by COVID-19.” The opposite was at Cal State Los Angeles.

Cal OES and FEMA supplied staffing and assets, together with a vaccine provide straight from the federal authorities, which means the county’s allocation of photographs could possibly be used elsewhere. 

“That was the great thing about the feds utilizing the Coliseum web site as a mega web site: after we had been speaking about organising the location by ourselves, we might have been utilizing our personal provide of vaccines that had been allotted to us from the state,” Miley lately informed The Oaklandside.

At a charge of $100,000 per thirty days—plus personnel, water, and extra parking bills—the Coliseum’s 40-acre north parking zone was quickly break up into quite a few lanes with orange parking cones resulting in massive white tents. At its peak, 1,200 workers from the Federal Emergency Administration Company and the Nationwide Guard put 42,000 photographs every week into folks’s arms.

Dr. Kathleen Clanon, medical director of Alameda County Well being Care Companies, has been working on the Coliseum web site since January. 

“I’d say there’s a bit little bit of disappointment,” Clanon stated of the Coliseum web site closing. “This exhibits what we will do when we’ve got folks from all around the nation dedicated to 1 aim.” 

The vaccine distribution effort wasn’t all the time equitable

The Coliseum opened to the general public on Feb. 16 “with an express deal with ensuring communities hit hardest by COVID-19 aren’t left behind,” in accordance with a state Workplace of Emergency Companies press launch. On the time, California’s vaccine rollout was nonetheless in Section 1a, which restricted eligibility to healthcare staff, folks working in emergency companies, training, childcare or within the meals and agriculture industries, in addition to anybody age 65 or older. 

Kaplan stated she quickly observed that communities struggling the worst impression of the pandemic had been additionally receiving the fewest doses of the vaccine, disproportionately excluding Black folks and Latinos.

On Feb. 24, Kaplan and District 7 Councilmember Treva Reid despatched a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state well being division, Cal OES, and FEMA, writing that there have been issues with the state’s on-line vaccine appointment system, MyTurn. 

“The system has crashed, misplaced perform for the community-based websites, and has confirmed troublesome and unreliable. Different programs exist which do seem to work and could possibly be used,” Kaplan and Reid wrote.  

Myturn initially used codes to prioritize particular teams—residents of zip codes the place COVID-19 case charges had been highest—for vaccine doses early within the rollout. The code system was shortly scrapped after authorities realized younger, wholesome folks had been getting the codes and leaping forward within the vaccine line.

Regardless of these and different complaints, Cal OES and FEMA continued to make use of the $50 million MyTurn web site for appointments on the Coliseum. In the long run, solely about 27% of all vaccines delivered day by day within the state had been booked by means of MyTurn, as CalMatters first reported. 

Reserving an appointment on the Coliseum was additionally made troublesome as a result of appointment slots had been added to MyTurn in bulk and with out discover. Some volunteers finally arrange Twitter accounts like Bay Area Vaccine Bot to create notices when new appointments had been accessible Some folks turned “vaccine hunters,” swooping in when new appointment occasions had been added and making appointments, whether or not for themselves or their family members. It was a course of that could possibly be irritating and time-consuming, particularly at occasions when the state expanded eligibility. 

One other massive setback for the Coliseum vaccination web site was information that hundreds of individuals got the mistaken doses of the Pfizer vaccine on March 1. Coliseum medical staff informed KTVU that the distinction in needle designs wasted between 0.05 to 0.1 mL of the 0.Three mL doses. Well being officers stated those that acquired the doubtless smaller doses could be superb, however the mixup was probably one more reason why some have been hesitant to get vaccinated.. 

The most important wrench thrown into the vaccination effort’s gears was undoubtedly the “pause” placed on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The one-dose shot acquired emergency authorization in late February, permitting websites just like the Coliseum to double their output of totally vaccinated folks with out the necessity for a follow-up shot. The J&J vaccine additionally could possibly be saved in a standard fridge, making it simpler to make use of at cellular websites. On March 11, the Coliseum switched to the “one and finished” Johnson & Johnson vaccine. To advertise the security and effectiveness of the vaccine, California’s first Surgeon Common Nadine Burke Harris and Dr. Thomas Aragon, California’s director of public well being, each acquired a Johnson & Johnson shot in entrance of reports cameras within the Coliseum’s parking zone. In April, the federal authorities ordered a brief halt to make use of of the J&J vaccine “out of an abundance of warning” after a small variety of ladies skilled harmful blood clotting points. The vaccine was finally cleared to be used once more after its security was established.

In April, Alameda County moved into the orange tier of the state’s reopening plans. That allowed the Coliseum to welcome in 10,000 followers for the A’s house opener in opposition to the Astros whereas nonetheless working the vaccine web site within the parking zone.

“It was sort of unbelievable to juxtapose these issues, however they had been associated—folks had been getting vaccinated, offering us the chance to reopen,” Kaval stated. “I’m glad we had been in a position to play that function and followers might see the vaccination web site.”

On the similar time, uncertainty lingered whether or not the Coliseum would stay open previous its authentic 8-week federal project. FEMA began to sign it was on the brink of shut down the operation. On April 6, Gov. Newsom introduced the Coliseum’s function as a mass vaccination web site would proceed one other 4 weeks, however vaccine allotment and administration would come from Alameda and Contra Costa counties with the aim of delivering 6,000 doses a day. 

On April 12, Alameda and Contra Costa counties took over, switching again to the Pfizer vaccine. Extension of the Coliseum’s function as a vaccine web site made sense, say well being authorities, as a result of one final massive group of individuals had been about to turn into eligible: youth.

Mia Shah-Dand of Oakland acquired her first Pfizer shot on the Coliseum on April 17, two days after everybody in California over the age of 16 turned eligible. Her first-ever journey to the Coliseum took lower than an hour, together with the 15-minute ready interval after the shot. 

“What I preferred about it was that it was fairly straight ahead,” Shah-Dand informed The Oaklandside. “I used to be so pleasantly shocked, blown away really.”

That’s largely been the response of those that had been vaccinated on the Coliseum: issues had been organized and the folks working there have been courteous and sort. 

“Delivering vaccines is inherently pleased work as a result of you realize you might be serving to the folks in entrance of you,” Clanon stated. “It’s a dedication folks make to one another.”

However there was another dent within the Coliseum’s  aim of delivering vaccine fairness: As first reported by Road Blogs SF, Cal OES, with out prior discover, shut down walk-up appointments from April 19 to Could 2 as the location was transitioning into Alameda County’s full management. Individuals might now not take BART or AC Transit to the Coliseum Station and stroll over to the clinic on the pedestrian bridge. 

The barring of pedestrians occurred regardless of advert campaigns encouraging folks to make use of public transportation to entry the location. 

The ultimate numbers

Within the final two weeks of April, it turned abundantly clear that the vaccine provide within the Bay Space was outpacing demand. Appointments at quite a few websites remained unfilled as these keen and eligible had already acquired their photographs. The Coliseum went from administering about 6,000 photographs a day to lower than 400. The Coliseum’s remaining days had been devoted to delivering second Pfizer photographs. 

When Cal OES left the Coliseum and the Los Angeles mass vaccine web site final month, it stated its technique of attending to these most impacted by the pandemic labored, as greater than 68% of the greater than 720,000 doses delivered at each websites had been administered to “focused underserved communities and other people of colour.” Official statistics don’t verify this declare for Oakland, nonetheless.

Cal OES’ remaining numbers, tabulated in mid-April, present almost 41% of the Coliseum’s photographs went to white folks and greater than 28% to Asian Individuals. Lower than 18% got to Latinos and fewer than 4% got to Black folks, though Latinos and Black folks make up 22% and 10% of Alameda County residents, respectively. And in East Oakland, the neighborhoods surrounding the Coliseum are majority Latino and Black. 

Numbers from the FEMA-backed cellular clinics which have popped up at church buildings, colleges, neighborhood facilities, and different websites distributed in neighborhoods, nonetheless, higher replicate Oakland’s range: almost 26% of the vaccinated had been Latino, greater than 20% Black, greater than 23% Asian, and simply over 23% white.

“Having the cellular models exit to the communities helped us to start to attempt to get extra photographs into people who find themselves reluctant or hesitant to come back to the Coliseum web site who dwell in East Oakland,” Miley stated. 

Whereas the Coliseum web site was chosen as a result of it sat in an space the place folks of colour had been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the 94621 space code, which covers the Coliseum, has one of many lowest vaccination charges in Oakland with 43% of eligible residents vaccinated with not less than one dose. The county, as an entire, is at 75%.

Kaplan stated that’s a part of the problem of counting on the MyTurn system. “Remedying this requires better entry to appointments by means of direct sign-ups by cellphone and in particular person, and offering entry to vaccination with out appointments,” she stated. 

Now that the period of mass vaccination websites in Oakland is coming to an in depth, Clanon stated the county is shifting to what she calls “radical comfort,” or smaller pop-up websites with extra accommodating hours and providing folks a alternative of what vaccine they need. She stated if a vaccine web site will get 100 doses out in a day, that’s a win. “100 of the appropriate folks is fabulous,” Clanon stated. 

It’s nonetheless up within the air the place the A’s will play after their lease on the Coliseum ends after the 2024 season. Regardless, Kaval says the Coliseum needs to be honored for its function within the pandemic. 

“It’s like a historic landmark,” he stated. “It was an extremely essential occasion within the historical past of the Bay Space.” 

As for Hernandez, he didn’t get the job he interviewed for earlier than his vaccination, however he landed one other one. He’s been having fun with the indicators of issues getting again to regular, like going to Wrestlemania 37 in Tampa Bay along with his dad after they had been vaccinated.  

“Life has been going fairly nice since that day,” Hernandez stated.

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