S. E. Williams |

Like elsewhere in the country, both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties continue in their efforts to curtail the impact of COVID-19. But, are they doing all they can? 

While experts are in overdrive, working to convince the unvaccinated to take the vaccine, President Joe Biden had put a stake in the ground and last week issued a series of mandates requiring employees in certain jobs to be vaccinated or take a COVID-19 test weekly. 

In the meantime, Moderna seeks approval for a third (booster) shot for its vaccine recipients to keep current with Pfizer, even as experts are divided on the need for a booster for anyone who is not a senior or immunocompromised. 

Pfizer and Moderna are also working aggressively to bring a vaccine to market for children between the ages of five- and twelve years, especially now that schools have reopened, the virus is spreading in many classrooms and children are filling ICU wards in some states. 

In addition, despite the COVID-19 vaccines are proven extremely effective at preventing serious COVID illness and death, nay-sayers, anti-vaxxers, and those sincerely vaccine hesitant–either knowingly or unknowingly–continue to spread false information about the vaccines and in the process, are muddling conversations regarding the efficacy of the vaccines and according to some, further fueling the hesitancy among many.   

President Joe Biden signs COVID-19 vaccine mandates. (source: twitter.com)

The sense of urgency to convince those who remain hesitant to take vaccines is real, and the mandates implemented by the president are designed to highlight that urgency. Most experts concur the more the virus circulates, it is more likely to mutate and the possibility exists–like with the Delta variant–that  a future mutation might evolve that could be more contagious and virulent. 

Despite this risk, about 80 million Americans–including many in the Inland Empire, remain unvaccinated. 

Local officials resist mandates

Included among the president’s mandates is the requirement that all federal employees, federal contractors and health-care workers at facilities receiving federal funds must show proof of vaccination, with no testing option. Another mandate calls on businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated and those who are not, must be tested weekly.  

These are just a couple of the mandates instituted by the president, however officials in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties have expressed their  reluctance in recent days to adopt similar mandates for municipal workspaces. 

Riverside County

Riverside County Department of Public Health, Senior Public Information Specialist Jose Arballo Jr. claimed the county will continue to follow state guidelines and recommendations advising  the Southern California News Group (SCNG), “If something changes with the state guidelines, we might consider revisiting these issues at that point.” 

Not surprisingly and in addition, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco once again seized the opportunity to speak out about COVID-19. Speaking about mandates during a recent podcast he explained how  it is not his job to keep people healthy, “Part of government is not keeping you healthy. It’s not the role of [the] government,” he declared, adding, ”It’s not my role.”

San Bernardino County

Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations continue climbing in San Bernardino County, no less than 93 patients were in intensive care at hospitals across the county on Sunday. Even with 420 hospitalizations in San Bernardino this weekend, the county has not changed its position about mandates. 

Although local mandates were discussed by the board according to county spokesperson David Wert, not adopting local COVID-19 health orders helps to, “avoid confusion and ensure consistency.”

Fifty-seven percent of California’s population is fully vaccinated compared to only 53.8 percent of residents in San Bernardino County  over the age of 12. Yet, even lagging behind  the state in this important measure, does not appear to be a strong enough impetus for county leaders to create local health orders or mandates. 

San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors (source: theievoice.com)

Commenting on mandates, 4th District Supervisor and San Bernardino County  Board Chair Curt Hagman declared, “I think it’s pretty intrusive.” He qualified his statement by saying he would like everyone to get vaccinated but expressed this sentiment, “I’m just uncomfortable forcing them to do it. Some people just don’t want to get vaccinated. Our job is to put all the information out there and let people make their own decisions.” 

As the COVID-19 tensions, discussions, illnesses, and deaths continue, San Bernardino County is providing the third-dose of COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised people. However, the availability of third booster shots for everyone else who received mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna remains uncertain.

Booster shots

Officials report booster shots should be available around September 20, to people eight months after  their second shot, but  that date may be pushed back for some. This is because only Pfizer recipients may be eligible at first as Moderna may be delayed for several weeks while its data is being reviewed. 

Molina Healthcare hosts free vaccine clinics in San Bernardino

MolinaCares Accord is hosting FREE Covid-19 vaccine clinics in San Bernardino. (source: molinahealthcare.com)

Meanwhile, as immunocompromised individuals in San Bernardino seek out their third shots, Molina Healthcare is hosting FREE COVID-19 vaccine clinics in San Bernardino through October. 

The vaccine clinics hosted by the MolinaCares Accord, will be held at Molina Healthcare, 550 E. Hospitality Lane, Suite 100, San Bernardino on the following dates:  

Saturday, September 18, 2021, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM PST (1st and 2nd Dose, Pfizer)

                     Saturday, October 9, 2021, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM PST (2nd Dose, Pfizer)

The MolinaCares Accord oversees a community investment platform created to improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged populations by funding meaningful, measurable, and innovative programs and solutions that improve health, life, and living in local communities. 

Another Look at Hesitancy

As campaigns to inform residents of the benefits of vaccines continue, many still refuse to be vaccinated. A survey conducted at the request of researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the University of California and published in March, sought to understand the most common reasons why Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated for COVID-19. 

The team undertook the effort because as it suggested, public health interventions to target vaccine-hesitant populations should include messaging that addresses their concerns about the vaccines’ efficacy and safety.

Participants in the study cited several reasons for vaccine hesitancy including potential side effects, the need for more information about the vaccine, and doubts about vaccine effectiveness.

The main reasons given for vaccine hesitancy were concerns about side effects and safety of the vaccine, the need for more information about the vaccin, and doubts regarding the efficacy of the vaccine. Main Predictors of Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy identified previous influenza vaccine coverage and political affiliation as significant predictors of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.

The study highlighted additional pertinent findings including that vaccine hesitancy was also tied to not receiving the influenza vaccine in the past five years. Also, females and Blacks, having a high school education or less, and having a Republican party affiliation were more likely to be vaccine-hesitant.

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion  for civil rights and justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Stephannie has received awards for her investigative reporting and for her weekly  column, Keeping it Real. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager...

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