Community organizations work to bring vaccine to underserved groups in Kent County
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A Tuesday vaccination clinic targeting African refugee and immigrant populations is a topical example of Kent County’s health officials and their community partners trying to vaccinate underserved and sometimes overlooked communities.
“When we started getting vaccines, we found that the bigger clinics weren’t for everyone,” said Brian Hartl, an epidemiologist with the Kent County Health Department.
“We really developed this collaboration with our health partners and community partners to work towards an equitable distribution of the vaccine and, together, to fill the gaps in which they were identified and to get the vaccine out to the populations in settings where they feel most comfortable. “
Part of that work includes setting up smaller vaccination clinics across the county, such as those recently established at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School and the Godfrey-Lee Public Schools Early Childhood Center, for those who may or may not be able to reach the larger clinics feel good.
But that also includes working with community groups to do the publicity work for vaccine registration and navigation for some communities that face additional barriers, be it language, transportation, or registration and access.
Hartl said registration was the biggest barrier to vaccination in his opinion.
“Some people do not have access to a computer or are uncomfortable using a voice line or an interpreter on the phone,” he said. “What we really did is put the registration in the hands of our community partners. We provide you with a list of appointment slots.
“They make phone calls to people they are connected to, people who speak the language, and can more easily remove the barrier of signing up through an online link or having someone call through an interpreter. ”
The vaccination clinic on Tuesday, aimed at African refugee and immigrant communities in the district, is the result of a collaboration with A Glimpse of Africa. The clinic dedicated to these communities is open from 8:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at 4700 Kalamazoo Ave. SE planned.
As with other target clinics, vaccination required pre-registration and there was no widespread advertising outside of the designated communities. If walk-ins are allowed and the clinic is widespread, sometimes those outside the target groups come in, according to Hartl.
“We have seen in the past that when (walk-ins and commercials) happen, a lot of people who are in communities outside of these target areas are the ones who come to the clinics,” he said.
A Glimpse of Africa is a non-profit that hosts events that celebrate and share African cuisine, art and culture, as well as events and contacts that support the African community, such as a winter mental health panel.
“It feels great that someone gives the time and effort,” said Fridah Kanini, founder of A Glimpse of Africa, of the clinic on Tuesday. “We’re here to be the go-between.”
Kanini said the language, as well as limited access to resources and information about the vaccine, was an obstacle that some had to overcome and that her organization was trying to act as a bridge.
The community outreach approach for clinics also offers additional opportunities to involve a wider range of translators, e.g. B. those who speak Nepali and Vietnamese and who helped at one of the first clinics.
Hartl said there is ongoing work to improve interpreting services at DeVos Place, the county’s largest vaccination clinic.
Some, but not all, of the groups that have helped so far include the West Michigan Asian American Association, the Asian Community Outreach, the Bhutanese Community of Michigan, the Western Michigan Hispanic Center, A Look at Africa, Treetops Collective, Bethany Christian Services, and Senior Neighbors. Said Hartl.
Last week, the county health department received an additional 2,500 doses of vaccine to target vulnerable populations, including black and Latin American communities, people with homelessness, or people with mobility issues or cognitive impairments.
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