Keck Medicine of USC vaccinates elderly relatives of hospital staff

Roughly 300 family members of Keck Medicine’s environmental services, cafeteria and warehouse workers were vaccinated over the weekend in an effort to further combat COVID-19 disparities in L.A.

January 25, 2021 Grayson Schmidt

In an effort to increase vaccination access for residents of nearby communities, Keck Medicine of USC held a vaccine clinic over the weekend for the 65-plus family members of its environmental services workers — those that clean the hospital rooms — as well as cafeteria and warehouse workers.

“Equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine has been a priority from the outset at a global, national and state level,” said Felipe Osorno, Keck Medicine’s executive administrator of continuum of care operations and value improvement.

“Keck Medicine has been extremely judicious in following the prioritization guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.”

Roughly 300 people were given the Pfizer vaccine at the USC Norris Healthcare Center on Saturday, at no cost to them. As of Monday, 65% of Keck Medicine’s overall staff had been vaccinated and more than 80% of its physicians had been as well.

Keck Medicine of USC looks to learn from COVID disparities

Family Vaccines
Salas was one of 300 people were given the Pfizer vaccine at the USC Norris Healthcare Center on Saturday. (Photo/Ricardo Carrasco III)

After looking at early vaccination rates, Osorno said he realized that certain teams at Keck Medicine had much lower rates — 20% to 40% — compared to their overall average. These teams — including environmental services, cafeteria, valet and parking operations — are comprised mostly of Latino and Black workers.

With large Latino populations in the neighborhoods surrounding Keck Medicine, and the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on Latino and Black communities, efforts to quickly vaccinate community members — many of which live in multigenerational households — are crucial. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported that the COVID-19 mortality rate among Latino residents jumped from 3.5 daily deaths for every 100,000 people in early November to 28 deaths per day in January. Among Black residents, it jumped from one to more than 15 deaths a day.

“These facts prompted us to act and initiate specific outreach to the most vulnerable,” Osorno said.

As of Sunday, L.A. County had reported 1,073,111 coronavirus cases. During a Monday briefing, the county also reported that the total number of COVID-19 deaths had passed 15,000 over the weekend.

Vaccinations for family of staff: one step of many for USC

Almost as important as vaccine access is educating potential recipients and combating misinformation. As such, Keck Medicine conducted in-person briefings for EVS workers in English and Spanish, during which they were able to ask questions about the vaccine, the process and any other concerns they might’ve had.

Keck Medicine plans to hold additional vaccine clinics moving forward.

“We are extremely proud of the gigantic team effort across our organization to make this a reality,” Osorno said. “Seeing so many folks in our immediate community in Boyle Heights get vaccinated was very emotional. It reminded me of my parents and grandparents, who are awaiting access to vaccination in South America.

“This is only the first step,” he added. “We will continue to develop ways to tackle deeply rooted health care inequities.”