Things That Matter

A Latina Nurse Named Helen Cordova Was the First Person to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in California

Photo by Jae C. Hong-Pool/Getty Images

On Monday, the first person in California was administered the COVID-19 vaccine and her name was Helen Cordova. Cordova is an intensive care nurse at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. She is also a brave woman who deserves to be celebrated for her courage.

The doctors, nurses and elected officials (including California Governor Gavin Newson) applauded after Cordova received the vaccine.

“I’m very excited that we have the vaccine, because it provides hope for the future,” Cordova said afterward, according to The Los Angeles Times.

But after she got the vaccine, Cordova went back to work–business as usual. Four other healthcare workers received the vaccine after her, including a respiratory therapy technician named Raul Aguilar.

It is significant that the first Californian to receive the vaccine was Latina, as Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus.

Latinos make up 39% of California’s population and 40% of frontline workers in California. 58% of the California COVID-19 cases and 48% of COVID-19 related deaths have been from Latinos. The L.A. County Department of Public Health reports that California Latinos are more than twice as likely as white Californians to contract the virus.

To make matters worse, Latinos are more likely to be suspicious of the coronavirus vaccine. “In communities of color in particular, there is a real history of abuse by the medical system that creates a potentially higher level of skepticism,” said Dr. Robert Wachter chair of the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco to the LA Times.

Hopefully, patients like Helen Cordova will inspire confidence in the Latino community that the vaccine is, indeed, both safe and effective.

Shortly after Cordova received the vaccine, Governor Newsome tweeted out: “History made.”

But earlier in the day at Kaiser Permanente, Governor Newsome was slightly more somber, as California (like every other state) is facing its most grim stretch of the pandemic so far. In the last week, the Golden State averaged 32,858 new COVID-19 cases a day.

“We are in the midst of the worst moment of this pandemic,” he said. “So today is hopeful, and it’s reason to be optimistic, but let’s be mindful of where we really are.”

Three other California cities received shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, including San Diego, San Francisco and Eureka. According to reports, the vaccine will become available to the general public in the spring.

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