Rady Children’s was an integral part of the community vaccination response from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic
VACCINE MILESTONES December 15, 2020: Rady Children’s is the first hospital in San Diego County to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The first shipment includes 1,049 doses. Emergency department nurse Brittanee Randle is the first San Diegan civilian to receive the vaccine.
As the clinic continues hitting milestones and vaccinating up to 1,700 people a day, Abe reflects on the Hospital’s involvement and the impact it’s made on the entire community. “We’ve received some of the most beautiful cards from patients expressing their gratitude for keeping them safe,” she says. “I can’t tell you how cool it was to vaccinate a 100-year-old patient, or my 98-year-old former father-in- law. There are so many great little stories like that.” She remarks on how amazing it’s been to be a vital part of the community response when the adult hospitals were full: “The Rady Children’s vaccine clinic has been the brightest light we’ve seen in a dark year, and it started to show us that we are actually going to get out of it. It’s so positive— everyone is so happy and thankful. This vaccine is the first proactive tool to help mitigate or eliminate the virus.” TACKLING HEALTH EQUITY To Gail Knight, MD, MMM, Rady Children’s senior vice president and chief medical officer, building trust within underserved communities was a calling. She remembers her mother telling her about the Tuskegee Study and other research when she was a child, and was inspired to pursue medicine so she could assuage fears relating to health care and combat historical inequities with compassion and education. Once the pandemic struck, Dr. Knight recognized she could use her position and unique background to build trust in the face of vaccine hesitancy among lower-income and underrepresented communities. Her great-nephew died of COVID-19 in November 2020, and this personal loss further magnified the urgency to reach those disproportionately affected by the illness. A conversation with Chris Abe about significant gaps in the diversity of people being vaccinated led to a grassroots effort to reach vulnerable San Diegans in the South Bay. “Being part of a trusted health care system gives me a sense of responsibility that I take very seriously,” she says. Dr. Knight’s approach to the COVID-19 fight was hands-on. She made phone calls—to other physicians and people she knew were active in community churches and service organizations—and she coordinated with Keri Carstairs, MD, Rady Children’s chief population health officer, and her team to personally call elderly residents. “We are a children’s hospital, and we’re used to speaking to people in a compassionate way—it’s what we do every day,” Dr. Knight says. Soon enough, word began to spread that Rady Children’s was making vaccination appointments available to people with otherwise limited access. The effort launched by Dr. Knight and Dr. Carstairs reached at least 1,000 people, many who had no phone or computer and had been cut off from their families because of the pandemic.
May 4, 2021: Rady Children’s administers its
100,000th dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The lucky recipient is a 16-year-old local high school student.
May 5, 2021: Rady Children’s recognizes clinical nurse Kathy Houston as the top vaccinator in the Hospital ’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic, having administered more than 3,000 doses.
SUMMER 2021 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE 19
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