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Parishes begin to host vaccination clinics

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SAN DIEGO — Parishes in areas hit hard by COVID-19 have begun hosting vaccination clinics across the San Diego Diocese. The idea is to make it as easy as possible to get immunized at a time when appointments are hard to get as eligibility has expanded.

As of April 15, everyone 16 years and older became eligible to get the free vaccine, regardless of immigration status. The organizers of the parish-based events are committed to doing all they can to vaccinate as many people as supplies allow, said “Vino” Pajanor, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities San Diego.

The organization is working closely with the Governor’s Office, which launched an initiative in April to expand outreach to areas pummeled by the virus, in partnership with faith-based organizations.

The first vaccination event at the diocese was held on Saturday, April 10, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Chula Vista. That parish, along with neighboring ones in South Bay, promoted the event to their communities. Catholic Charities developed and managed a simple process to  register people.

Pajanor said that the plan was to vaccinate 1,100 people that day. But UCSD Health personnel, who administered the vaccine, were able to obtain about 200 more doses, bringing to 1,354 the number of people who were vaccinated.

The one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine was administered that day. The federal government paused its use three days later while it investigated six cases of women who had developed rare blood clots among the 6.8 million people who had received that vaccine in the U.S. up to that point.

On Saturday, April 17, the El Centro Catholic Community held a drive-through and walk-up vaccination clinic in the parking lot of St. Mary’s Parish, also in coordination with the Governor’s Office. Personnel from the Vo Neighborhood Medical Clinic, the Imperial County Health Department, Salud Sin Fronteras, members of the National Guard, and volunteers from the Catholic community facilitated the vaccinations. The goal was to immunize 1,200 people with the Moderna vaccine.

In  San Diego County, meanwhile, a vaccination clinic was planned for Saturday, April 24, at the La Quinta de Guadalupe Retreat Center, using the Moderna vaccine. The second dose of that vaccine is to be administered on May 22 across the street, at St. Charles Parish.

Pajanor said the Governor’s Office plans to coordinate more vaccination clinics at parishes as supplies are available.

A variety of information about the COVID-19 vaccines is available at sdcatholic.org/vaccine.

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