Dozens of area residents recently participated in a one-day walk-in vaccine clinic in Pacoima offering free basic health screenings, flu shots and the newest COVID-19 vaccine. The new vaccine became available last month and health officials stress that it helps protect against current variants of the virus.
“The latest COVID vaccine recently got approved … so we’re really happy to [be able to] provide it for free to the community, whether they have health insurance or not,” said Judy Hsieh Bigman, manager of the LA Care – Blue Shield Promise Community Resource Center in Pacoima, which hosted the Oct. 5 vaccine clinic. She said they got the word about the event via social media, handing out flyers in local shopping centers and “old-fashioned” word of mouth.
Bigman stressed that COVID-19 “absolutely” remains a public health issue, especially for older adults and those with health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, which can affect people in different age groups. Because respiratory infections in general tend to rise during fall and winter months, it’s an ideal time for people to get vaccinated against both COVID and the flu, she said.
“Especially for vulnerable populations who get hit the hardest,” added Bigman, who compared vaccines to having auto insurance. Although being vaccinated won’t necessarily prevent a person from being exposed to or contracting a COVID infection – just as being insured can’t prevent a car accident from happening – she said that being vaccinated can significantly increase a person’s odds of “staying healthy, and give you the best chance of recovering from COVID.”
Pacoima resident Edith Perez said the primary factor that motivated her to participate in the recent vaccine clinic was a desire to “try to stay healthy” – especially because she has asthma, which she said makes her more susceptible to developing serious respiratory infections.
“Yes, it’s very important for me to make sure I always get vaccinated,” said Perez, who received both the flu and COVID vaccines. “I’ve been getting the COVID vaccine almost from the very beginning, because I can have serious complications when I get sick. I think it’s a very good thing that they offered this opportunity for the community. I wish more people would take advantage of getting the free vaccines so that less people would end up getting sick.”
That is precisely the goal, said Nancy Dao, clinical pharmacist for LA Care. The more people get vaccinated, the more it can help prevent the virus from spreading, and that in turn can help protect those who can’t get vaccinated because they are too young (under six months of age), are immunocompromised or due to other factors (such as being allergic to the vaccine ingredients).
Getting vaccinated may also help reduce the prevalence of “long COVID,” which is described as lingering or long-term symptoms of COVID following an infection. According to data from the 2022 California Health Interview Survey, nearly 1 in 3 adults in California who have had COVID-19 experienced symptoms of long COVID. Among those affected, Latin American adults experienced higher rates of long COVID (38.4%) compared to white adults (24.1%).
“What’s great about events like these is that they’re open to everyone in the community,” said Dao, adding that most of the individuals who attended the one-day clinic took part in the free health screenings as well, which included checking glucose levels and blood pressure readings.
Aura Trigueros, who lives in Pacoima, was one of those many people who participated in the health screenings in addition to getting vaccinated. She said she gets a flu shot every fall, and has made sure to get every COVID vaccine as they have become available to the public.
“I’m really grateful I was able to get the vaccine,” said Trigueros. “I think too many people live under the illusion that their body will be able to handle anything they put it through indefinitely, but as the years go by, the body’s defenses go down, down, down, and we need to take better care of our health.”
It’s not only about taking care of ourselves, she added – getting vaccinated “helps everyone.”
“If we want the well-being of humanity,” said Trigueros, “we must all take the initiative to help take care of each other.”
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, go to: www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/vaccine.