A popular eatery brings COVID-19 vaccines to Downtown Santa Ana
Oscar Olivares, owner of El Indio Botanas y Cerveza in Downtown Santa Ana, isn’t waiting for the Latino community to seek out the COVID-19 vaccine. He is bringing the vaccine to them.
On Sept. 14, his popular establishment hosted a vaccine clinic inside the restaurant.
“I was born and raised here, and I am very familiar with everything that is Santa Ana cultural,” said Olivares. “This is one of the best things I can do for my little hometown.”
As vaccines became available, early reports revealed Latinos make up a low percentage of the vaccinated population, even though they are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
According to salud-america.org, a national Latino-focused research organization, by Aug. 30 Latino residents accounted for 29.5% of vaccinated people in California, although they make up 39% of the state’s population.
Olivares said he was inspired by businesses similar to his that are hosting events like “A Shot for A Shot,” offering alcohol shots on the house for vaccinated patrons. In August he partnered with Santa Ana’s Latino Health Access, giving the nonprofit organization tickets redeemable for two tacos at El Indio.
“He gave us 200 tickets to give out to those participants getting vaccinated,” said Karen Sarabia, Outreach and Education Coordinator for Latino Health Access.
Latino Health Access is dedicated to bringing health, equity and sustainable change to uninsured and underserved communities through education and services. Its Downtown Family Resource Center is located at 450 W. 4th St., around the corner from El Indio.
The successful partnership inspired Olivares to bring the clinic directly into his restaurant, a move that Sarabia said can make all the difference.
“[El Indio] is located right in the middle of the community, and it is convenient for the community in terms of accessibility,” Sarabia said. “The location is the key.”
With Latino Health Access acting as liaison between El Indio and the Orange County Health Care Agency, El Indio was able to host the mobile clinic. The agency promoted the event on its Twitter account and El Indio posted appointment information on its Instagram account. Pfizer-Biontech and Johnson & Johnson shots were administered by the Aliso Viejo-based South Marina Pharmacy to those 12 years of age and older.
Latino Health Access set up in front of the restaurant playing music and distributing Spanish- and English-language materials with information on living through the pandemic. Individuals sat at tables and chairs inside the restaurant for the shot and moved to the outdoor patio once they received it to be monitored for side effects before leaving. The full El Indio menu was available as well.
Natalie Perez, a 16-year-old from Laguna Niguel came to El Indio for her second shot.
“It’s easy access here,” Perez said as her parents sipped Coca-Colas from El Indio’s bar. Perez received her first shot in Huntington Beach.
Olivares said he anticipated some pushback from guests who are against the vaccine.
“I have even had multiple people asking what am I getting out of it. They think I got bought out by big pharma or something,” said Olivares.
But Olivares said those assumptions aren’t true.
“It’s just the sheer satisfaction of helping out my community … do you need a better explanation than that?”
Schools, churches, community groups and other small businesses like El Indio interested in helping out their own communities can request to host a clinic through the Orange County Health Care Agency website. The site provides information and instructions on how to sign up for a mobile vaccination event with free COVID-19 vaccinations.
Olivares sees it as the simplest way to help the Latino community.
“For me it’s very important to take care of our loved ones and get things going and make sure every one is working again and working safely … going out and enjoying themselves safely. We just want to contribute to that,” Olivares said. “The only thing it’s going to cost me is some space in my restaurant.”
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