HSC CEAL partnership registers residents for COVID-19 vaccines at YMCA

By Diane Smith-Pinckney

Opal Lee photo by Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Opal Lee – Photo by Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

 

Fort Worth social justice advocate Opal L. Lee has a COVID-19 public health message: “For Heaven’s sake, go get the vaccine.”

The 94-year-old activist recently posted a flyer on Facebook with details about a vaccination registration event planned at the William M. McDonald YMCA in Southeast Fort Worth.

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s CEAL team, YMCA, DFW-CHW Association, United Way of Tarrant County and Tarrant County Public Health organized the vaccine sign-up event.

Emily Spence-Almaguer, UNT Health Science Center
Emily Spence, UNT Health Science Center

“I’m telling everyone and their daddy,” said Lee, who is described as “Grandmother of Juneteenth” for her grassroots advocacy.

Lee’s voice about COVID-19 lends valuable help to efforts by the Tarrant County CEAL team, or Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) against COVID-19 disparities.

“A lot of people are still worried about the vaccine,” said Dr. Emily Spence, Associate Dean for Community Engagement & Health Equity and Associate Professor at the HSC School of Public Health.

Spence is among experts trying to instill vaccine confidence in Tarrant County communities. HSC students are serving as volunteers at the event.

“The vaccine is here and it is safe,” said Vinny Taneja, TCPH Health Director. “We need for the community to sign up.”

Taneja said they want to increase vaccine participation rates in Southeast Fort Worth.

“We want to make sure we are in that community answering questions,” Taneja said.

Bridging vaccine barriers

Kenny Mosley, Executive Director at the William M. McDonald YMCA, said the event is a first-of-its-kind for YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth and Texas YMCA.

“The YMCA is committed to fostering consistency and honesty,” Mosley said. “Our cause is strengthening communities – with a call to action to help community members meet basic needs. COVID-19 is no exception. We recognize disparities and past harms. We have the infrastructure and agility to remain visible for the community without missing the opportunity to make an immediate impact on Covid-19 relief efforts.”

Vinny Taneja, Tcph Health Director
Vinny Taneja, TCPH Health Director

The YMCA connects with families and is a resource in many neighborhoods across the nation.

“It’s a place where people feel comfortable, and that’s exactly what we want for our families, to feel welcomed and know they can trust us to help them with this very important step of registering for the vaccine,” said Denise A. Hernandez, Executive Director of the DFW-CHW Association.

Underserved families face social, economic and technological hurdles, including general mistrust, no information or poor information, language barriers and internet access, Mosley said.

Fears about personal data collection, vaccine hesitancy, vaccine availability and equitable vaccine distribution are also barriers for many families, experts said.

At the sign-up events, community health workers field vaccine questions and participants get help signing up for vaccines on registration portals.

“These vaccines are essential in preventing death from COVID,” Hernandez said. “We’re not saying they will not get COVID, we’re saying, ‘You will not die from COVID.’ That is such an important message because we’ve all experienced death because of the virus to some extent. The virus has really impacted our minority communities and we need to do our best to make sure we protect our loved ones.”

About the grant

CEAL is a national program headed in Texas by HSC experts.

HSC administers the Texas portion of a $12 million National Institutes of Health award for outreach and engagement efforts in ethnic and racial minority communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Dr. Jamboor K. Vishwanatha, Regents Professor and Founding Director for the HSC Texas Center for Health Disparities, and a team of experts are fighting misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The award to RTI International, a nonprofit research institution, supports teams in 11 states established as part of the NIH Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities, according to NIH.

In Texas CEAL Consortium is administered through HSC. Dr. Vishwanatha, who is the principal investigator for the CEAL.

Several HSC researchers are involved in the project, including HSC epidemiologist Erika Thompson, PhD, Dr. Erica Spears, Dr. Teresa Wagner, Dr. Usha Sambamoorthi and Dr. Emily Spence, who are focusing on populations in 12 Tarrant County zip codes of highest priority.

There are community engagement projects underway in Tarrant, Dallas, Harris, Bexar and Hidalgo counties. These Texas counties are high-priority regions that receive special focus.


If you go

COVID-19 Vaccination Registration Event:

Masks are required. Social distancing will be in place.

Saturday, March 13
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
William M. McDonald YMCA, 2701 Moresby St., Fort Worth, TX 76105

What to bring

  • Name
  • date of birth
  • address and primary phone. (A cellphone is needed to get text updates).

For more information

Call the hotline at 817-248-6299.


 

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