A mass vaccination site opened at the Oakland Coliseum on Feb. 16. Credit: Amir Aziz

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Over 80,000 people have checked out our online guide to getting vaccinated in Oakland and Alameda County since we first published it in January, with new updates nearly every week. We’ve also translated the guide into Spanish.

That’s great, but we know a lot of people who might want this information aren’t going to encounter it on our websites, newsletter, or social media accounts.

Given that COVID-19 has disproportionately infected and killed Black and brown Americans since the start of the pandemic, it’s crucial to make sure that communities most impacted by the virus have access to reliable, clear, and timely information about getting vaccinated. But across the country, we’re seeing stark disparities in who’s gotten the shot so far. In Alameda County, white residents have been getting vaccinated at higher rates than other communities.

Today, The Oaklandside is launching a new text number to offer more ways for people to get updates on the vaccine rollout and ask us any questions they have along the way. We’re also starting a printed flyer and postcard campaign about this service that we’ll work with community partners and volunteers to distribute in Oakland zip codes that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus.

To sign up for our text alerts, text “oakland” (or anything) to 510-281-3464 or visit this page. We’re working with an SMS platform developed by journalists called Subtext, which has recently been used by news outlets in Texas to help people get answers and information about that state’s recent weather crisis. Subtext doesn’t sell your user data or phone numbers to advertisers or other third parties, and neither will we.

You can expect to hear from us at least once a week with latest updates on who’s eligible for the vaccine, how and where to get an appointment, how to get help finding and traveling to appointments, and more. You can also ask our reporters and editors questions about COVID-19 vaccine access directly, via text.

Our postcards and flyers will be printed in both English and Spanish, directing English speakers to sign up for The Oaklandside’s text service and pointing Spanish speakers to a text service that one of our reporting partners, El Tímpano, has been providing for the past year to Latino and Mayan immigrants in Oakland.

Want to volunteer to help us with this effort? We’d love to hear from you. Please note that, depending on our needs and the number of people who get in touch, we may or may not have opportunities for you to volunteer—we greatly appreciate your interest either way.

Tasneem Raja is the Editor-in-Chief of The Oaklandside. A pioneer in data journalism and local nonprofit news startups, she co-founded The Tyler Loop, a nationally recognized community news platform in East Texas. She was a senior editor at NPR's Code Switch and at Mother Jones, where the team she led helped built the first-ever database of mass shootings in America. She started her career as features reporter at The Chicago Reader and The Philadelphia Weekly, and lives in Oakland with her husband and two imperious terriers.