For some trying to get a COVID-19 vaccination appointment for themselves or their loved ones, navigating the online system to sign up, driving to the site and making it through the line — the process can feel a little daunting.
That anxiety was eased for Cecilia Santiago-González, in large part, because she was able to get her mother, Rosa, an appointment at a place she knows well – Cal Poly Pomona.
Since Feb. 5, the campus has served as a mass vaccination hub run by a consortium of health organizations and led by Kaiser Permanente. So far, 204,000 people have been vaccinated at the site.
Even though the hub is large in scale, for Santiago-González, assistant vice president of strategic initiatives for student success, it felt easy to navigate.
“What struck me was everyone’s kindness,” she said. “It was such a huge endeavor. From those directing traffic to those who were doing the check in to the nurses, everybody was extremely kind. They took their time to explain what was happening.”
The establishment of a hub on campus began with a desire to help stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep the Bronco family and the local community safe.
When Cal Poly Pomona heard that the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) was preparing to identify mass vaccination locations, the university reached out to the agency to serve, said Frances Teves, assistant vice president for government and external affairs.
At the same time, the possibility of a partnership with Kaiser Permanente was emerging, said Teves, who also leads the campus’ Safer Return Task Force.
“We did a mobile flu vaccination clinic in fall with Kaiser Permanente, and we built a strong relationship with them,” she said. “This was an opportunity to build upon our partnership and serve the community at large. “
Kaiser Permanente saw Cal Poly Pomona’s closeness to four counties, location in the heart of Southern California and proximity to underserved communities such as Pomona as advantageous, Teves added.
The hub, which has the capacity to administer 5,000 vaccinations a day, has benefited the university as well, with the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation serving meals to the healthcare workers and contractors. It also has provided an opportunity for more connection with the surrounding communities.
On opening day of the hub, Pomona Mayor Tim Sandoval lauded the consortium of health organizations and Cal Poly Pomona for their effort to make sure that communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 have access to the vaccine.
He said he is grateful that “people from our community, particularly a place like Pomona, which has been hard hit by the pandemic, that (residents) have a place to go to get this vaccine. I am incredibly thankful for the leadership,” he said. “I have no doubt that our residents are going to benefit from this, not only our residents but residents throughout the region.”
Carol Gonzales, the university’s chief information security officer, checked the site daily until she was able to get her mother-in-law, Norma, the first appointment of the day on the first Sunday the hub was open.
“Once we parked, we pushed her right on through,” she said. “Everybody was very nice, and it was well organized.”
Gonzales added that as a CPP alumna, parent of a current student and employee, it felt good that Cal Poly Pomona was a part of the statewide effort.
“It gives you a prideful feeling to see that we can contribute,” she said.