HSC students help register people for COVID-19 vaccines in hard-to-reach communities
HSC student Megan Dole has a mission to help residents in hard-to-reach communities get protected against COVID-19.
“The more people who get vaccinated the better,” said Dole, a first-year medical student at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM). “It’s so exciting to see this rolling out and being a part of it too.”
Dole is among students from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) helping boost Tarrant County’s vaccine distribution.
HSC students are helping register people in southeast Fort Worth and northwest Tarrant County. Several students said they bring bilingual skills to these sites – talents that allow them to serve Spanish-speaking and Vietnamese-speaking residents.
The vaccination sites are part of a collaboration between HSC and Tarrant County to expand access to the vaccine in historically underserved and hard-to-reach communities.
The first site, located in Fort Worth’s Stop Six neighborhood, opened on March 23 at Brighter Outlook Inc., 4910 Dunbar St., a facility operated by Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. The second site opened on April 6 at the Saginaw Recreation Center.
On March 25, Dole helped register people at Brighter Outlook Inc. Dole, Joshia John, Helen Nguyen, My Nguyen, Dorian Maloy, Sandy Soyoun Jun and Sruthi Reddy helped people navigate vaccine registration on the Tarrant County Public Health website.
The students worked near a gymnasium that served as a vaccination site where people received shots.
Stance Stephens, a police officer with HSC, was among people who registered for the vaccine on March 25. He received his first vaccine dose the same day.
“If this is something that can reduce the risk of me actually getting sick, then I’ll take it,” Stephens said. “You can’t help worrying about it because you are surrounded by people who have gotten sick – family, friends and workers.”
Visitors to the vaccine site said COVID-19 has taken too many lives.
“Close friends – they are like family and people I went to school with – died from it,” Stephens said.
Kathy Cotton, a bus driver with the City of Fort Worth, said work and parenting schedules made it difficult to get the vaccine weeks ago when it was offered at her work. On March 25, she registered at the Brighter Outlook, Inc. facility.
“I am very happy,” Cotton said. “I’m a single parent with a daughter off in college. I have to work two jobs and a lot of overtime to make ends meet.”
Rev. Bruce D. Datcher of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church said neighborhood vaccine sites protect working families.
“Many individuals, and rightfully so, feel fearful of this virus,” Rev. Datcher said. “This virus has claimed the lives of close to 600,000 individuals just in the United States alone.”
Rev. Datcher said COVID-19’s impact also highlights existing health disparities nationwide.
“The black and brown communities have faced death at a higher ratio than other communities,” he said. “It is a great concern. There is a concern for the virus, but there is also a concern for the antidotes and medications to the virus. These are issues we are trying to assist with. We need to take this vaccine. We need this vaccine if we as a community, city, state and even a nation are to come back together and become whole again.”
The 143-year-old Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church has long been linking families to health resources, Rev. Datcher said. He said as public health experts work to vaccinate communities of color, reaching out to churches are a must.
“The church plays an integral role in the community,” Rev. Datcher said. “The community is familiar with the church. The church has been playing a role in the lives of communities all across this nation over many years. A lot of beginnings began in the church. Most of our historical black colleges began in a church. The Civil Rights Movement began in a church.”
Tarrant County is home to communities of many different ethnicities and races, including Hispanic, African American, African and Asian. Experts said it is important to make sure all communities can find the vaccine.
Saginaw’s vaccine site is expected to help families who resettled in northwest Tarrant County after leaving countries such as Laos and Vietnam. Several generations of refugees and immigrants from Southeast Asia and Latin America live in north Fort Worth, Haltom City, Keller, Saginaw and Watauga. The Saginaw vaccine site offers more access to all families in northwest Tarrant County.
Information at the Saginaw vaccination site, 633 W. McLeroy Blvd., will be available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
“We need to make sure that we can communicate where everyone can understand, where every language can be received and all barriers can be broken and they can feel comfortable to receive this vaccination,” Rev. Datcher said.
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