LYNWOOD, Calif. — Monday was a big day for the city of Lynwood, a small town in South East Los Angeles that has been one of the hardest hit cities by COVID-19 in all of L.A. County.
A line of people waited all day as St. Francis Hospital offered more than 1,000 vaccines to people who live or work in Lynwood.
Tears of joy streamed down the face of Lynwood's Mayor, Marisela Santana, as she watched a Lynwood resident get her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Mayor Marisela says this woman represents the hundreds of thousands of people they’ve been fighting to vaccinate in her city and all of South East Los Angeles.
"These are the people in our communities that need this vaccine. They couldn’t stay home. They couldn’t afford to stay home during this pandemic, they had to go out there and keep working for their families," she said, crying.
One in every six people in Lynwood has caught COVID, one in every 58 of those people who caught it, died from it. When Lynwood was thrown into the national spotlight for those staggering statistics, Mayor Santana joined with other city leaders in South East Los Angeles to use that notoriety as fuel.
Together, they began working around the clock to ask anyone who would listen for vaccines in this community.
"It’s hard to believe that even though we were the hardest hit region, we were the last to get this vaccine," Mayor Santana said.
But finally, she says, their voices were heard. St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood announced this week that it was offering more than 1,000 vaccines to people who live and work in Lynwood.
"When people are talking about the vaccine and wanting to send 40% to those vaccines to the most disadvantaged communities, guess what? That’s us. And our work hopefully planted a little seed in the minds of the people rolling out those vaccines," Mayor Santana said.
This rollout was what another Lynwood resident, Anita Earl, was waiting for. But filling out the paperwork came with mixed emotions. Earl was one of the first to feel the devastating impacts of this virus.
“I lost a sister to coronavirus," Earl explained. "In January, they didn’t know what it was. And it was devastating. She went from having terrible pneumonia, to a massive stroke and she was gone.”
The loss pushed Earl to address vaccine hesitance in her family and community head on. She pleads with anyone who will listen to trust science, talking the talk until now, she can finally walk the walk.
"Just took control of my coronavirus life, thank you!" Earl said, laughing. "This is a lower income [community.] About 98% of the people here are people of color. It’s very easy, from what I’ve seen in my life, for underserved communities to fall through the cracks.”
It’s something the Mayor of Lynwood witnesses time and time again, so she’s thrilled to have played a part in making sure the lives of her people are just as important as those in more affluent cities.
"Our family members deserve to live. And to have access to this vaccine gives us hope," she said.