How USC Alumni Led Pasadena to One of California’s Highest COVID Vaccination Rates

Last Christmas Eve, while many Americans were at home with their families, Manuel Carmona MPA ’06 sat inside a Pasadena Public Health Department office, anxiously watching a refrigerator thermostat.

Inside the refrigerator lay a precious gift: COVID-19 vaccines.

Carmona — the department’s deputy director — and a team of nurses had convened after noticing the temperature creeping up on their first shipment of Moderna vaccines. They kept watch all night and on Christmas morning, installed security cameras trained on the thermostats. “That allowed us to monitor temperatures on our phones from anywhere,” he says. The refrigerators eventually stabilized, but he still remembers the team’s vigilance during those first few nights.

Carmona is proud of his team’s efforts to fight the pandemic, but he’s also quick to point out it’s a dedication shared among the community for more than 20 months. “This was not just a public health department response to the pandemic,” he says. “This was the city responding to the pandemic.” He mentions the librarians who served as contact tracers, calling residents who might have been exposed to the virus. The city council members who helped staff vaccination sites. And the residents who volunteered to educate neighbors about the vaccine. Before long, Pasadena boasted one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in California. As of October, nearly 90% of eligible Pasadena residents were fully vaccinated, and nearly 94% had received at least one shot.

Behind the scenes of that achievement is the Pasadena Public Health Department and the department’s USC alumni. Five graduates from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Price School of Public Policy serve on the city’s nimble health team…

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