A new pop-up vaccination site opened in Gilroy on Wednesday at the Gilroy Senior Center.
The new site is a part of Santa Clara County’s most recent effort to ensure vaccine distribution and access to its hardest-hit communities located in East San Jose and Gilroy.
The move comes after the county’s realization in early February that eligible Latinx residents were receiving the vaccine at lower rates than other groups despite being impacted by COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.
According to county data, just 5.9 percent of the nearly 415,000 eligible Latinx population has been vaccinated as of Wednesday. In comparison, the rate for eligible white residents is 14.3 percent and for the eligible Asian population, 15.8 percent of the 530,000 people eligible currently for the vaccine have been vaccinated.
In the county, the Latinx population makes up 51 percent of COVID-19 cases but only 25 percent of the population.
“Right now, we are standing in a hot zone, meaning that we have a lot of people who have tested positive and become ill from COVID-19,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in front of the new vaccination site. “And because communities suffer disproportionately like this one, it really is incumbent for us to do everything er can to be innovative and creative.”
This new site is an example of a creative solution, Chavez said, because it is right in the heart of the most impacted ZIP codes and serves the most impacted population — Latinx seniors.
Volunteers will also be going door-to-door to inform senior citizens where and when they can get the vaccine, Chavez said.
Gilroy City Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz said this new pop-up site is a sigh of relief for her, and many can now “breathe easier because they have the opportunity to receive the vaccine.”
But it doesn’t mean the struggle is over, she noted.
“The number of Latino seniors who have been vaccinated is way too low and incredibly disproportionate and the numbers in south county continue to climb,” Armendariz said.
Of county residents 65 years and older, only 25 percent of the Latinx population has been vaccinated as opposed to 50 percent of the Asian population and 38 percent of the White population, according to county data.
Gilroy has also held steady in first place with the highest number of COVID-19 cases reported per capita, with 13 percent of Gilroy’s population COVID-19 positive, Gilroy Fire Chief Jim Wyatt said.
San Jose was a steady second for the last 11 months of the pandemic until Monday, when Morgan Hill overtook it and become the second-most COVID-infected city, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
But county and local leaders still say this new site a sign of better times coming to Gilroy.
“Gilroy has mourned so many losses so it’s a wonderful thing to be among you to celebrate a day of joy and hope,” said Claudia Rossi, president of the county’s board of education. “I think the message of today is that we are rebuilding together.”
Armendariz said this new site will operate for two weeks. On Friday, vaccinations will also be available at Gilroy Veterans Hall and Gardner Health Clinic. By the end of the month, the city in collaboration with the county also plans to open up a mass vaccination site at Gilroy High School.
Currently, health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and residents 65 years and older are eligible for the vaccination.
To schedule a vaccine appointment or learn more about the process in Santa Clara County, people can visit sccfreevax.org or call 211.