Alameda County Gives Outreach Workers COVID-19 Vaccine Priority

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Across the Bay Area, those who work in hospitals and nursing facilities are first in line to get the vaccine. But in one East Bay county, people who help the homeless get off the streets are getting vaccinated early, too. 

“Only my arm hurt for a few days, I didn’t have any side effects from it,” said Candice Elder, founder of the East Oakland Collective.

She received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine last Wednesday. She doesn’t work in a hospital or drive an ambulance. Her line of work  – helping Oakland’s homeless. 

“We do a lot of public facing in the trenches work,” she said. 

On any given day – Elder and her staff could be dropping off meals or handing out PPE at homeless camps. 

“We have witnessed outbreaks in the encampments,” she said. 

Elder gives kudos to Alameda County’s Public Health Department for acting quickly and putting outreach workers first. 

“Getting the vaccine is a relief, we feel a little bit better that we’re protected to do this work,” Elder said.

Another group getting the vaccine this week – the people who work at Project Roomkey shelters, where hotel rooms were quickly converted into quarantine rooms for the homeless. A spokesperson for the county says they want to begin vaccinating the people in the rooms as well, but they don’t think they’ll get to that phase until later this month. 

“They’re seniors. they have high risk health conditions,” Elder said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to other counties – like San Francisco, Santa Clara and Contra Costa – to find out if they too are vaccinating homeless outreach workers, but did not hear back. 

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