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African American entrepreneur assembles mass vaccination site for the underserved

Posted at 10:11 PM, Nov 23, 2021

VALLEJO, Calif. — At the Solano County Fairgrounds in Northern California, getting vaccinated is easy. Benjamin Gammon is the Solano County Interim Emergency Medical Services Administrator.

“We have six lines of vaccine from influenza to full dose and booster of Moderna to Pfizer, JNJ and pediatric Pfizer,” Gammon said.

For the past few weeks, Gammon has been happily vaccinating hundreds of kids. The mass vaccination site was first set up in early February to get shots in the arms of the underserved.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over the course of the vaccination rollout, Black and Hispanic people were less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, but these disparities have narrowed over time.

Operations manager Kyle Newport says many people of color aren’t necessarily hesitant to get the vaccine. He says disproportionate vaccination rates are mostly due to lack of access.

“People that have the lowest opportunity to have revenue are usually the last people to get health care by opening up and inviting all to come here, we can try to bridge that gap, make sure that everybody can go to school and get a job, can work and can return to some sort of a normal life as they knew it before the pandemic,” Newport said.

Dinette Thompson who got a booster shot says she wasn’t hesitant at all.

“I am an essential worker," Thompson said. "I work at a care home and I need to have the proper vaccinations so I won't give anything or catch anything. I'm a child of God, I need to do what is decent and in order.”

The man behind the whole operation is Bill Hammond, the president and founder of Hammond Entertainment. He’s typically booking events with A-list celebrities.

“Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Babyface, Dave Matthews,” Hammond said.

It was when all the stars were staying home during the pandemic that he got a call from Kaiser.

“Out of the blue in January, the senior vice president and the head doctor called me," Hammond said. "He just picked up the phone and said, ‘Hey, Bill, can you come up here and build and run logistics and operations for a mass vaccine site? We want to do 2,500 - 5000 a day’, and in three seconds. I said ‘yes.’”

For months, he’s been employing hundreds of people from the community to make it happen.

Hammond is familiar with the community. He was born in San Francisco and his father was an orthopedic surgeon with Kaiser in Sacramento for decades.

“I'm a minority owned company for 26 years that I think that played a part that they had so many African Americans up here in the forefront running this business with a lot of other minorities," Hammond said. "I think that was very helpful. And also to be an inspiration to them that another company can come in here that's minority owned and run an operation of this magnitude with success and grace and compassion.This is the biggest stage, the biggest platform, because it's doing so much good in the community and it's it's and it's an honor for me to have the opportunity to to run this operation with my team.”