How Community Health Workers/Promotores de Salud Championed the Vaccination of 250 Individuals In Two Days
The phone rang for Natanael Chavez on a Thursday; it was the Executive Director from El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center (El Sol) calling to let him know that they received funding from Loma Linda University to vaccinate 250 people and they will need the help of Community Health Workers (CHWs)/Promotores de Salud (Ps) to reach those most in need. The CHWs/Ps proposed that Adelanto will be the best option for a popup clinic. Everything sounded great except for the fact that the vaccination event was scheduled for the following Wednesday. Meaning that Natanael’s team at El Sol had two days to work out the logistics and two more days to locate the 250 individuals to vaccinate. Luckily enough, they were up for the challenge.
The Importance of Partnerships and Access
The first thing the team needed to do was confirm a location for the event, and Vilma Lopez, a CHW/P from El Sol, was the person to get it done. When speaking with Vilma, she highlighted the importance of relationships during situations such as these. Vilma had found success working with religious leaders in previous outreach and mobilization efforts, so she leaned on those relationships. She spoke with the pastors directly and was candid about the team’s need for a location. By the end of the day, she confirmed a location showcasing her strong ties in the community.
Once the location was set, the next task was working out the logistics. At this time, Vilma emphasized the importance of making the process “easy”, which meant following a ticket system. The system was meant to prevent barriers for seniors such as going online to register or having to call an organization to confirm registration. The CWHs/Ps believed this was an important detail as they were aware that seniors in the area faced many barriers, including computer literacy, transportation, and language. Therefore, they knew a simplified process was crucial when reaching out to this rural, Hispanic desert community.
As the details of the event fell into place, the team of 10 Community Health Workers/Promotores de Salud only had one thing left to do, and that was locating the 250 seniors interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This job fell on Erika Marroquin and her teammates. As a CHW/P, Erika had worked outreach events before and knew exactly who to reach out to. Through her connections in the community, the team developed a few community strategies such as setting up at Cardena Markets and local laundromats, as well as going door to door.
After two intensive days of canvassing and outreach, Natanael’s team was confident that the Adelanto Vaccination pop-up clinic would be a success. And it was. They met their 250 quota and unfortunately ended up having to turn some people away. When speaking with the team after the event, Erika stated “they [the seniors] had a long journey to get here so seeing them get vaccinated made everything worth it.” Vilma emphasized that their efforts meant “250 people will not die [from COVID-19]” and that the vaccine “brought light” to the community. The CHWs/Ps confidence in the vaccine shined through, and the community saw that and trusted them.
The Need for More Support
When looking back at the event, Natanael is astonished by the great commitment the Community Health Workers/Promotores de Salud showed even under such a tight deadline. They were resilient in their efforts, and he cannot be more proud of their accomplishments. And we cannot be more proud of Natanael’s leadership.
By the end of the event, Natanael estimated that 90% of those vaccinated were Hispanics and that 50% of them were Spanish-only speakers, which shows the importance of Community Health Workers/Promotores de Salud in the road to a more equitable future. As more vaccines are distributed, we have to continue identifying gaps where CHWs/Ps can be most effective as they have shown to be key players in the fight against COVID-19 in rural Hispanic communities.