Vaccination site that served hard-hit East San Jose closes
School of Arts and Culture Event Coordinator Jan Uchiyama looks out at the empty courtyard on the last day of the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in District 5on June 30, 2021. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    While Santa Clara County remains optimistic about its vaccine goal, some vaccination sites around the South Bay are closing down—including one in Mexican Heritage Plaza.

    The walk-up clinic, which first opened in late January, has been an essential vaccination site for East San Jose, an area hit harder by the pandemic than any other part of Santa Clara County.

    The site, run by Gardner Health Services in partnership with the county, provided COVID-19 shots to roughly 500 people a day in early March. When more residents became eligible, it served closer to 800 to 900 people per day, Omar Rodriguez, spokesperson for the School of Arts and Culture, told San José Spotlight Wednesday.

    That number has dwindled to 30 to 40 people a day, he added.

    “This whole place used to fill with people,” said Jan Uchiyama, a School of Arts and Culture event coordinator. “We used to have people from all over the place come here for the vaccine.”

    On the last day of the clinic, the courtyard that once saw hundreds of people eagerly lining up now sits empty.

    “We’re extremely thankful that we were able to vaccinate as many people as we did,” said Dr. Ranjani Chandramouli of Gardner Clinic, adding that the location administered at least 25,000 shots since January.

    The COVID-19 vaccination site at Mexican Heritage Plaza closed down on June 30 after administering more than 25,000 doses to residents in East San Jose. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    In stark contrast to a year ago, Santa Clara County is leading in vaccination rates in the state, with nearly 75% of eligible residents fully vaccinated. More than 80% of residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.

    It also has the highest vaccination rates in the country for large counties and remains on track to meet its lofty goal of fully vaccinating 85% of its residents by August, county officials said Wednesday.

    With a rolling seven-day average of about 30 positive infections, COVID-19 rates in Santa Clara County are at an all-time low, according to the county’s data.

    Earlier this month, the county announced plans to close most mass vaccination clinics, including one at Levi’s Stadium and the County Service Center on Berger Drive. The sites at Gilroy High School and Mountain View Community Center will close later in July.

    Still, only about 60% of Latino and Black residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the county’s data. About 66% of white residents have gotten the jab compared to 95% of Asian people in the county.

    Residents are still hesitant to get inoculated due to misinformation and fear of unknown long-term health effects, a recent survey to the county shows. Some are waiting because they were previously infected by the virus, Chandramouli said Wednesday.

    “At this time, we’re not concerned that the clinic is closing,” she said. “Our clinic is down the street, if anyone needs vaccination.”

    Santiago Diaz was among a few people at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Wednesday afternoon. A Colombian native, Diaz said he travelled to the U.S. to get the vaccine.

    “In my country, we have to wait, because they only offer it to older people right now,” Diaz said. “So I decided to travel here to get it.”

    COVID-19 vaccines are still available at a number of walk-up clinics. Click here to find a full list.

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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