Elected officials united to encourage African Americans to get vaccinated. Participants included, from left, are Assemblymember Mike Gipson, LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna, State Senator Steven Bradford, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, Kedren Vaccines Director Dr. Jerry Abraham, Kedren CEO Dr. John H. Griffith, U.S. Representative Karen Bass, L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price and Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

“Vaccinate now” is the mandate from Los Angeles-area federal, state and local elected officials, who united on August 12 to implore African Americans and Latinos to receive the shot to counteract the latest surge in COVID-19 infections.

At a press conference at Kedren Health Center in South L.A., 11 civic-minded politicians answered the call of Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) to collectively urge the county’s 8.3 million residents who remain eligible for vaccinations to get inoculated.

Medical professionals agree that vaccinations remain the primary prevention method against the COVID-19 virus and the Delta variant. Those who are fully vaccinated reduce the chances of hospitalization and death according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“The spread of COVID is at epidemic proportions and we need to make sure that everyone knows how important it is to get vaccinated. I’m the chair of the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee and as far as I’m concerned, this is a public safety emergency. We all need to come together to make sure everyone is protected and safe,” said Jones-Sawyer.

Echoing his concerns were U.S. Representative Karen Bass, State Senator Steven Bradford, State Senator Sydney Kamlager, Assemblymembers Mike Gipson and Isaac Bryan, L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, L.A. City Councilmembers Curren Price, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. Unified School District Board Member Dr. George McKenna, and Dr. John H. Griffith, CEO/president of Kedren Health Center.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that our community would be hit the hardest and when the vaccines rolled out, we knew that we would need a full court press to ensure that our community had access to the vaccine,” said Bass, who added that several actions have been implemented on the federal level to fight the virus.

Congressional legislation comprised eight major COVID relief packages that included more than $80 billion for vaccination funding. Also, earlier this year, $16 billion was approved for the research, development and manufacture of vaccines and more than $20 billion for the distribution of the products.

“Still too many people, especially too many African Americans, have not been vaccinated. African Americans are 6-to-7% lower than other groups in terms of their vaccination rates,” noted Bass as she announced a two-month campaign, spearheaded by Black elected officials, to promote COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

The initiative will feature PSAs on radio and in print publications along with a series of testing and vaccination events at community activities in the metropolitan area. The calendar includes August 21- Uptown Jazz Festival hosted by Long Beach Councilman Rex Richardson, August 22 – Gardena Jazz Festival hosted by Bradford, August 28 – Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Plaza Concert, Sept. 18 – door-to-door mobile vaccination clinic in Watts sponsored by Gipson.

Other speakers included McKenna, who gave an update on LAUSD’s efforts to protect students and staff on school campuses. He said all health and safety guidelines will be followed; all schools are sanitized and all teachers are expected to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated staff will be regularly tested for COVID-19. Also, each school will have a mobile testing and vaccination day available.

“I want to indicate, more than anything else, to get vaccinated. Don’t act like there’s a taboo against that. Do not believe that the vaccine is a plot from someplace. To anybody in my community that is unsure, do not listen to voodoo science. Listen to medical science. Trust your doctor, who is a medical professional and trained to do this,” encouraged McKenna. “The facts are that vaccines will keep us safe.”

Bradford shared similar comments, stressing, “There is no need to fear this vaccine. It has been tested and was even designed by an African American sister, so that should give people even more assurance that this vaccine is safe. The time is now to get vaccinated!”

Gipson delivered an impassioned plea for vaccinations as he recalled losing two family members and two church members to the COVID-19 virus. “But, we can stop it today. We can turn this trajectory around. Whatever your hesitation is, get past that so you won’t have to walk in the shoes I walk in today – missing family members and friends. I got my vaccination and I want you to get yours.”

Making a final plea, Jones-Sawyer said, “This pandemic remains a threat to the health and welfare of everyone. COVID-19 and the new Delta variant continue to disproportionately affect Black and Latino communities with higher infection and death rates, which is why everyone must protect themselves by getting vaccinated.”