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Equity in COVID-19 Response


Read more below about the County’s equity-focused response efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community Priorities for COVID-19
Local partners and residents identified 13 themes for COVID-19 response in May of 2020. These themes supported the county’s most affected communities. SMC Health shared the Community Priorities During COVID-19 document with over 1,000 residents.  Readers included community partners, local elected officials, and city and county staff. Jurisdictions everywhere struggled to maintain equity in their emergency responses. During this time, county health turned to the brief “Embedding Equity Into Emergency Operations”, written by the county’s partner, the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII). The brief offers examples from jurisdictions that included equity in their responses. These examples informed the recommendations PHPP developed.  


Equity in COVID-19
San Mateo County Health followed the state’s recommendations for vaccines and boosters throughout the pandemic. Health staff worked with community leaders to improve communication methods. Both groups prioritized an understanding of vaccine safety in culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate ways. County staff created graphics and flyers with information on testing, vaccination and preventative measures in English, Spanish, and Chinese. To see a full list of the flyers, visit the “COVID-19 Informative Flyers” resources section.


During this time, SMC health staff developed a 7-point framework to guide vaccine distribution:

  • Provide transparency in the science, data, and vaccination process. 
  • Prioritize those most at risk.
  • Acknowledge the negative and painful history of healthcare in the US in communities of color. Acknowledge how this history led to distrust in healthcare, research, and government.  
  • Engage community and stakeholders to better understand their concerns and needs. Respond to these as much as possible. 
  • Communicate in culturally sensitive ways. Communicate through trusted partners.
  • Overcome as many barriers to accessing the vaccine as possible. These barriers may be geographic, linguistic, cultural, physical, technological, documentation, mistrust, and more. 
  • Continue to learn and improve.

Many communities faced barriers to vaccine access in San Mateo County. San Mateo County health worked with trusted community representatives to learn more about these barriers. The 100+ person Vaccine Communication Equity Working Group began in January of 2021 and met weekly to share feedback on the needs and concerns of San Mateo County residents. SMC Health used information from the working group created a more equitable vaccine plan. This approach included acknowledging the troubling history of health care that some communities face. Get Healthy San Mateo County also offered a historical reference sheet to community members with information on examples of past harms and ways to move forward.