Youth Emergency Preparedness Council (YEPC) held their COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar from 3:30 – 5 p.m. on January 13 over Zoom and YouTube. The webinar aimed to provide reliable medical information about the COVID-19 vaccine and its upcoming rollout plans.
The webinar had over 200 live attendees, who were either part of the Zoom or watching the livestream on YouTube. It featured six guest speakers, including infectious diseases specialists from Washington Hospital and Alameda County healthcare officials. The speakers covered a wide variety of topics, such as the science and effectiveness of the vaccine, local and national rollout plans, and plans for school reopenings.
YEPC started planning this event about three weeks ago in hopes of increasing community awareness on the COVID-19 vaccine. “This webinar serves to remind people that there are solutions to the problem that we’re currently all facing, and by inviting professionals, we hope to give the community the right information so they can make educated decisions about the vaccine,” YEPC Vice President Senior Sahil Singh said.
After a brief introduction given by YEPC Founder and President Senior Yusuf Rasheed, UCLA Associate Clinical Professor and Director of Clinical Microbiology Dr. Omai Garner discussed the science behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, potential side effects, and the vaccine trials. “The vaccines aren’t new to us, from a medical community perspective … We understand safety, we understand potentially what populations can have long-term consequences, and that is what gives us confidence about the safety of this current vaccine product,” Garner said.
Alameda County Public Health Department officials Lauren Baranco and Lisa Erickson then explained Alameda County’s vaccine rollout plans and the COVID-19 protocol for Alameda County schools. To allow students in grades K-6 to go back to school, the state has set a standard of being in the purple tier, meaning that Alameda County must have a case rate of less than 25 positive tests out of 100,000 people per day. There would have to be an even further decline in order for high schools to reopen. The county would have to move into the red tier with only four to seven positive cases out of 100,000 people. However, as of January 15, the status of the number of cases is 41.7 per 100,000 people. “In order to [reopen high schools], we have to decrease the cases by 90%. We have a lot of work to do,” Baranco said.
Even if schools were allowed to reopen, there would be a lot of planning needed beforehand. The schools must submit a plan of reopening that is approved by the district in order for students to come back onto campus. In addition, districts will be responding to incentives given by the state and are mandated to follow CA guidelines. “At the end of day, it really is the district’s decision to reopen or not,” Erickson said.
In coordination with Alameda County, Washington Hospital Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Dianne Martin talked about the vaccination phases and observations from the hospital’s perspective. Currently vaccinating its healthcare personnel and physicians, the hospital has found that the vaccine is extremely safe. Martin said, “We’ve vaccinated almost 2,000 of our workers at Washington Hospital, and today, we have not had any adverse reactions.” Washington Hospital will help with the rollout plans under the guidance of the Alameda County Public Health Department when they activate the other phases.
The last guest speaker was US Department of Health and Human Services Regional Health Administrator Matthew Johns, who discussed COVID-19 preparedness from a national perspective and the country’s next steps in reopening. “All of these efforts that are going into the vaccine planning and distribution should really start to capture the needs around longer term infrastructure development for local health departments and … human resources capacity,” Johns said. “In terms of staffing and funding, the country has to get their health departments back to what they need to be.”
Following the guest speakers’ presentations, YEPC hosted a Q&A with live audience questions.
Since their inception in 2019, YEPC has held many events focused on emergency preparedness. Last school year, they distributed 1,000 trauma kits to all the schools in the Mission San Jose, Irvington, and Washington areas, while also hosting training sessions on CPR, First Aid, and Active Shooter for over 100 students. After the pandemic hit, the organization raised over $5,000 for Washington Hospital to purchase additional hospital beds for the overflow of COVID-19 patients, and they distributed 10,000 pieces of personal protective equipment to essential workers in Fremont and Union City. They also hosted a Distance Learning Webinar in August to help students adjust to the changes of online school.
YEPC was proud with how the COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar went and hoped that the attendees gained a new perspective on the vaccine. “I hope that they’re not only okay with taking the vaccine but also excited, and that they encourage their family and friends to do the same, because that will have the greatest impact in our community,” Rasheed said.
YEPC’s top priority now is to expand across and out of the Tri-City area. “We recently recruited a new representative from Logan High School…. the next goal is Newark [Memorial High School], and we’re also working with a school in Southern California to set up a new chapter there,” Rasheed said.
You can watch the COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar below, and if you are interested in joining YEPC or would like to learn more about them, visit their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover image by News Editor Alina Zeng