When County officials overlooked Kedren Community Health Center in distributing an initial vaccine supply, Dr. Abraham organized a vaccine distribution plan to ensure doses for South L.A.’s most vulnerable populations. In vaccinating residents regardless of their access to the internet, language or immigration status among others, Kedren is working to eliminate barriers preventing Angelenos from being vaccinated. Dr. Abraham and his clinic now serve as a model for equitable vaccine distribution.
In the hundreds of vaccination sites in Los Angeles, there are many unsung heroes in the ongoing fight against COVID. While many people are familiar with vaccination sites at Dodger Stadium, UCLA and USC Keck Medical Center among others, many of these heroes can be found working locally in community clinics. Rae Han profiled one doctor fighting to make sure that his clinic and its community get their fair share of the vaccine.
At Kedren Community Health Center, in South Los Angeles, people camp out in hopes of rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated. The line to the tent snakes through the parking lot and goes down for several blocks. Fighting the epidemic is not easy, but Kedren knows crisis. It was born of crisis, says its director of vaccines Dr. Jerry P. Abraham.
Kedren, the Little Kedren that could, this historically Black institution that was started in the 1960s, during the Watts Riots by 22 Black psychiatrists, who when their community, particularly Black people in mental health crisis, had nowhere else to turn, that’s when Kedren started. That’s who we are. It’s ingrained in our DNA. It’s ingrained in our genetics here. We do a lot with very little. We have to be the safe haven. This safe harbor in our community.
And never more than now fighting COVID. But last year when the COVID vaccine was first approved, Abraham had a hard time getting it for his community. Los Angeles County health officials somehow overlooked “Little Kedren.”
So I think everybody thought somebody else had us on their list. And we were on honestly, ultimately no one’s lists and we had no vaccines.
A week went by and still no vaccines for his staff or the community. Finally, around Christmastime, Dr. Abraham knew he had to take action to make things happen.
So I picked up the phone. I started making calls. I started knocking on doors and one phone call led to another door led to doors opening.
So Abraham got in a van with some of the staff who work at his clinic. They drove down to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
And we knocked on doors and went to the warehouse and said, “We’re not going home until we get some.”
He waited. And persisted.
And we finally left with 100 doses.
That was just the start. Dr. Abraham and his staff went back again. And again to make sure the people in their community got the doses they deserved.
And we literally had to do that because we kept running out. So we’d go and be like, “Hey, we used everything you gave us. We used everything you gave us.”
Eventually, Dr. Abraham got Kedren on a distribution list so it would receive its supply the same way the larger vaccination sites around L.A. get theirs.
Abraham says COVID has made the inequalities in America much more apparent, but this has only made him more determined than ever to work for justice and equal healthcare for all.
We hear people ask us, why did we do it? And there really was never a question. It was that we have no choice. We must. We won’t stop. We can’t stop until we know that our brothers and sisters, our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents, our children are safe from COVID. And that’s what keeps us going every day.
Now, with Kedren receiving a steady supply of the vaccine, they’ve even created a mobile fleet to take care of those who might have a hard time getting to the clinic.
The “Little Kedren that could” has already administered about 100,000 doses of the vaccine. Dr. Abraham and his team will keep up the good fight to help their community get what it deserves.
For Annenberg Media, I’m Rae Han.