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San Francisco Community Health Center Gives First COVID-19 Vaccination Shots in the Tenderloin

By Brian Ragas, Communications Manager

[San Francisco, CA March 25, 2021] San Francisco Community Health Center began distributing COVID-19 vaccines today alongside allied organizations that serve as the COVID-19 Response Team in the Tenderloin, including GLIDE, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and Curry Senior Center.

To mark this momentous occasion and to further explain what it means for people living in the Tenderloin, I sat down and interviewed Dr. Alisson Sombredero, San Francisco Community Health Center’s Chief Medical Officer who provided pertinent information vital for our community.

San Francisco Community Health Center is starting to support the city with its COVID-19 vaccine efforts. Can you tell us how the Health Center was able to procure vaccines for distribution and what is the plan for getting these shots out into the arms of our community? 

In a collaboration with San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) and GLIDE, SFDPH is providing the vaccines for the Tenderloin community with the understanding that our community has limited access to healthcare. So many of our patients are marginally housed and people who are experiencing homelessness (PEH) so they need low barrier access to COVID-19 vaccines to make it as easy as possible to access vaccines.

Can you tell us more about who you are prioritizing and are there specific allotments for distribution? When can we expect a scale up of these efforts?

We have two different events in the Tenderloin, one is open to community members at GLIDE and the other event at San Francisco Community Health Center we are vaccinating our clinic patients and we are prioritizing tier 1a, 65 plus as we did not have vaccines allocated directly to us in the previous months, as well as tier 1b and 1c. (You can download SFDPH priority tiers here) Tier 1c comprises almost all our clinic patients, including people living with HIV, diabetes, heart and lung disease, mental health conditions, persons who use substances, and persons living in congregate settings including safe sleeping sites, encampments, SRO’s and those experiencing homelessness.

What vaccine are you giving out? Can you briefly explain the pros and cons for using one kind of vaccine over others? Are there any concerns community members receiving this specific vaccine should know?

We are starting with Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Pros include that it is a one dose shot and provides excellent protection against severe COVID-19 disease including decreasing mortality. It is a viral vector vaccine so the technology and science behind this vaccine is well-established as other vaccines have been created with the same technology in the past. The cons are a slight decrease in effectiveness of protection compared to the 2-dose vaccine options (Moderna and Pfizer).  Efficacy for the J&J vaccine after the 1 dose is 66.3% in the studies in preventing symptomatic, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 at least 14 days after vaccination among persons without evidence of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Even though the efficacy is lower than the 2-dose vaccine options, it is still a wonderful vaccine as it prevents severe disease including death from COVID-19.

We will get allocated vaccines as the supply arrives from SFDPH and we will offer whichever vaccines we receive to the patients and community member but currently we only have the J&J vaccine.

What can community members do to be ready for their vaccine shot when it’s their time? How can we encourage others to be vaccinated who perhaps are hesitant?

Vaccine hesitancy is a real barrier and education is the best tool we have to address it. We are part of the Tenderloin COVID-19 Outreach Team who works in collaboration with GLIDE and other neighboring agencies to engage, educate and sign up for COVID-19 testing as well as vaccination. Some vaccinated members of the community will be trained and serve as community COVID-19 vaccine champions. They will be able to outreach to more residents of the Tenderloin and pass on the wonderful impacts of getting vaccinated.

Patients or anyone for that matter, can prepare by eating and hydrating themselves well before the vaccine and making sure they can rest in the next 1-2 days post vaccine as sometimes side effects present themselves such as fever, fatigue, body aches, and localized pain.

As more and more people are receiving COVID-19 vaccines, is regular testing for the virus still important? How often should we still get tested?

For health care providers and people working in the food and other direct services industries it is important to access COVID-19 testing every 1-2 weeks. For the general population if there’s no evidence of contact with another person with COVID-19 or with symptoms that can be related to COVID-19, the need of frequent testing decreases. Definitely, as the vaccine does not protect the population 100% for infection and we are not yet close to herd immunity in our communities, testing still plays a big role.

Also announced today, California is dramatically expanding the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines by first offering the shots to anyone over 50 years of age beginning April 1st and then to anyone over the age of 16 starting April 15th. This is certainly an exciting turn for our state that will greatly support the protection for our communities and hopefully will end the pandemic soon.

Medical Assistant, Eugenia Ruiz-Meija provides shot of J&J COVID-19 Vaccine to patient

San Francisco Community Health Center’s COVID-Response Team supporting the testing event at GLIDE

COVID-19 vaccine event at GLIDE gathers a large crowed

About San Francisco Community Health Center:

San Francisco Community Health Center is an LGBTQ and people of color community health center that believes everyone deserves to be healthy and offers the highest quality medical, dental, and behavioral health care. We foster resilience, belonging, and healing for all communities. To us, health care will always be grounded in social justice.

For more information regarding available sponsorships or to learn how San Francisco Community Health Center is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit or call (415) 292-3400.