Archive for March, 2021

On January 17, 2021, early in the COVID vaccine rollout, a local non-profit, Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation (VACF.org), spearheaded a culturally and linguistically-competent vaccine drive aimed at serving frail, disabled and debilitated elders (more than 75 years old).

In partnership with the Orange County Healthcare Agency (OCHCA) and dedicated Viet-American doctors, pharmacists and dozens of do-gooder-volunteers, VACF hosted this high-touch community health event at “Freedom Hall” in Mile Square Park, Fountain Valley, California.

On a warm 82F, January California-sunny Sunday, the greatest “freedom” of all, during this global epidemic, is to be free from a life-threatening, omnipresent, infectious Coronavirus. The venue is a refurbished airplane hanger, that is both capacious and well-aerated to protected the elders from the contracting airborne virus; meanwhile sheltering them from the beating sun. Being able to open all the 3 sides of the open doorways, also allowed for ample social distancing, to ensure the well-being of vaccinees, volunteers and daughter-drivers-doctors like Dr. Mai-Phuong (me)!

I am so proud of our community, and so immeasurably grateful for this opportunity to ensure my debilitated dad could get in/out in under an hour. (Even walking 200 meters from Parking Lot E, across to Freedom Hall), with his front wheel walker, was very difficult for dad. A former Special Forces military man during the Vietnam-American War over 45 years ago, dad is fiercely independen. Thus, he would never admit how hard it was for him to walk that short distance.

Dad’s young-at-heart attitude is full of joie d’vivre. But truth be told, his aged, coronary bypassed heart would not be able to negotiate the long lines at COVAX super sites like the ones at Disneyland or at the local fire stations.

To give you perspective, two weeks ago, when I queued up at the local Fire Station in Huntington Beach for COVID vaccines for firstline-responder-healthcare doctors like me, it took under 3 hours to get through the lines. On that cold, damp and wet winter morning, early on in the county-wide rollout, the organizers were still figuring out their protocols. The extremely long wait, was due to them trying to still figure out how to handle the extremely fragile mRNA Moderna-Pfizer new vaccines.

Today, my parents had a 12:30pm appointment and were done by 1:30pm. Both my English and French-fluent trilingual parents were attended to, by bilingual, sweet youth volunteers at the first “ghi danh” (or registration) station. At this stop, the tech-savvy, young VACF volunteers attended to the anxiety-provoking task of navigating the Othena.com app. They had previously, pre-gistered elders like my parents who signed up for this VACF vaccine drive by filling out a Google Doc waitlist. VACF staff have been working tirelessly for the last 2 weeks, to coordinate and orchestrate today’s inaugural COVID vaccine community drive.

For me (a multi-lingual geriatric and home-based internal medicine expert), it’s inconceivable to fathom how a monoligual elder (with potential disabilities and/or cognitive impairments) would be able to overcome this digital barrier, and sign up for Othena.com app. Without the cautious aid of VACF, it’s clear to me that other Limited English speaking elders could get passed the registration part. Even though I understand the need to register and track carefully for the County and national public health agencies to track those vaccinated, for potential adverse events, and to study the behavior of COVID in the future.

Such a huge countywide registry is necessary to collect (and later analyze) population health big data on things such as adverse reactions and dosing accountability for these brand new state-of-the-art vaccines. Within 4 weeks, all these elders who today received the Moderna vaccines, need to be called back for their second dose.

Thus, such data needs to be collected to repeat this process all over again for the second dose of the 2-step COVAX. After registration station, my beloved parents were gently escorted to the next station 2 for their actual vaccination. After checking their IDs, both mom and dad were quickly and skillfully inoculated by seasoned clinicians, a young Vietnamese American pharmacist and a more seasoned one, supervising.

Finally, we were escorted to the third and final station for observation of potential allergic reactions. Here, they sat comfortably, 6 feet part for 15 minutes to make sure they did not develop any “adverse reactions.” Allergic reactions include hives, itching and most worrisome: shortness of breath and mental status changes due to anaphylaxis. Each step of the way, my parents were ushered and cared for delicately, to ensure they knew where to go next. Volunteer escorts were on hand, ready to spot them, so as they would not literally (and figuratively) suffer any missteps upon the smooth laminate floored venue.

Throughout Freedom Hall, I was so moved to see so many other 75+ elders with variable abilities—many using canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. All of them were equally and kindly attended to, (as my parents), by the organizers! ❤️ Afterwards, my parents each scored a “care package,” with nutritious and delicious treats like a red apple, Cliff bars, healthy snacks, and a water bottle. They also got VACF volunteer, handmade-with-love, three-layered cloth face coverings, as per World Health Organization standards!

My parents also received flyers with useful information about COVID infections, and of course, information about cancer screening and prevention such as for breast, liver and cervical cancers. These are cancers, prevalent among Viet-Americans)!! 🙏🏽🌸😷

GO, VACF: “Education IS empowerment!” It takes decades to cultivate THIS level of #commUNITY immunity, capacity-building and trust. We all owe a huge debt of profound gratitude, to these #VACFSocal hometown #sheroes! 🙏🏽🌸👏🏽 Namaste.

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