Rep Ruiz calls on CVS to open vaccinations sites in underserved areas of Riverside County

February 9, 2021
In The News

Local Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz is urging retail pharmacies to join the fight for health equity when it comes to coronavirus vaccinations.

Ruiz wrote a letter to the CEO of CVS Health calling on the pharmacy giant to prioritize high-risk, underserved communities in its vaccine administration plans.

The pharmacy chain announced a list of vaccination sites across Southern California, but there are no locations available in Riverside County.

Ruiz wrote that the county has the 7th highest percentage of new cases in the state with its ICU capacity at 94%. He also wrote that twelve communities in the county are defined as "Medically Underserved Areas" by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

That includes Indio, Coachella, Blythe, Hemet, San Jacinto, Idyllwild/Pine Cove, Banning, Beaumont, and Chiriaco Summit / Desert Center.

"Many of these communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, compounding the problem," Ruiz wrote.

Ruiz says he wants to avoid the same discrepancy that occurred for communities seeking COVID tests.

"Prioritizing based on risk isn't enough if people who qualify can't actually access them," Ruiz wrote.

The congressman cited disproportionately low vaccination rates in underserved communities and among people of color despite the fact that they are more likely to contract COVID and die from it.

Ruiz said pharmacies like CVS have an opportunity to address this trend thanks to their widespread and numerous locations. He also urged the company to distribute important vaccine information and help patients overcome vaccine hesitancy.

"We have a moral responsibility to make sure that we do not leave people behind simply because they lack resources or live in certain area codes," Ruiz wrote.