Not long ago, thousands, desperate for a vaccine, lined up outside of sites before dawn and waited for hours, all for the slim chance of receiving a leftover shot. Now, once bustling hubs of activity, the same sites are nearly empty. So what is with the recent lull in vaccinations?
On April 1, Los Angeles County reached its peak vaccine distribution, administering 86,000 shots. However, on June 27, less than 3,000 shots were given out, according to the Department of Public Health. As a result, Los Angeles is now not estimated to reach herd immunity until late August, a month later than previously estimated, according to Deadline.
Angela Montrbriand, nurse and mobile team member, has two theories to account for the decline in vaccinations: either people are not returning to receive their second shot, or, as more of the world reopens, people may simply be less eager to get vaccinated.
As a result, many permanent vaccination sites are set to close soon, leaving members of the mobile teams (who change site locations nearly every day) to carry the weight of distributions. So while fewer people are receiving the shot, the responsibilities of these mobile crews – a cohort of nurses, firefighters, team members, and leaders – remain demanding as ever.
Just take a look at a day in the life of Deon Cooper, a firefighter paramedic of 15 years. First, he is responsible for figuring out where and how exactly to set up the 24 or 28-foot trailer that is a mobile testing site. Once that is decided, he must make sure that the trailers are fully stocked with everything from toiletries to personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. Among other things, he is also in charge of picking up the vaccines, keeping them at a constant temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, and maintaining the generator.
“And that’s just the start of the day,” Cooper said.
Many mobile vaccination sites open at 9 a.m. and shut down at 3 p.m., though others do not close until 9 p.m. Even more, staff members and leads must meet at 7 a.m. each morning to discuss the plan for the day, to receive their assignments (which change week by week if not day by day), and to load up on the vans that bring them to the site locations.
Mobile sites are crucial in communities that may lack access to vaccine distribution or where people are hesitant to receive the shot. These often include areas with large populations of Hispanics and immigrants, according to Politico. In the experience of Hanna Javier, mobile site lead, immigrants on a working visa may believe that vaccinations count as free healthcare and therefore could revoke their visa. In Javier’s experience, this is not the case, but nonetheless can affect the willingness of these communities to receive the shot.
As vaccination numbers continue to drop, it will take a collective effort – from mobile team members and high schoolers alike — to ensure that all demographic groups have equal access to and knowledge of vaccine distribution, so that we can all enjoy our long-awaited return to normalcy.
“We, as young, healthy people, have a responsibility — the same kind of responsibility as we have as a generation to grow up and do good things and move the world along — we have the responsibility in making sure that our communities stay safe and healthy,” Montbriand said.