Juntos de Lebanon, Union Community Care, and Penn State REACH partnered for a local vaccination event on April 18, resulting in 113 people receiving the first dose of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19. The event was hosted at local business La Placita.

The event balanced maintaining appropriate precautions — social distancing, sanitizing surfaces, wearing masks, allowing only small groups indoors, etc. — and creating a friendly environment for the community.

Guadalupe Barba, leader of Juntos and owner of La Placita, said she was grateful for the respectful and organized demeanor of both staff and participants, as well as the event’s success.

Safety precautions were observed so that community members could feel confident and protected as they waited for their vaccine.

“[It was] a community, family-oriented and friendly health event,” stated Barba. “There was music, balloons… you would greet one person, and then another one, and people were always participating and helping out. It was as if we were all one person. That’s what I liked.”

Relying on grassroots efforts and “word-of-mouth” promotion, trust and collaboration were key. Jackie Concepcion, Union Vice President of Community Initiatives, said that she had partnered with Barba to use her restaurant because “that is a location where people feel comfortable.”

Trust was especially useful when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine had to be replaced by Moderna in light of recent evidence and guidelines. Many participants were reassured on a one-to-one basis that the event would still take place, and that only Moderna vaccines would be administered.

“[There is] a group of people who might be more hesitant, and we need to go to them. [We need] one-on-one, hyper localized events that target a specific population. And with this, we were really targeting the Latino community,” Concepcion stated, echoing past comments of Union’s CEO Alisa Jones regarding equitable access and pandemic impact.

Read More: Researchers, advocates tackle COVID-19’s disproportionate toll on Latino community

Read More: CEO of Union Community Care named to state vaccine racial equity subcommittee

Both Barba and Concepcion emphasized the importance of having the event on Sunday, as it facilitated vaccine access to people who could otherwise find it difficult due to work schedules.

The event was open for everyone, but those who assisted were “mostly Hispanic”, stated Concepcion. Nurses and support staff onsite were bilingual, with forms and other information being offered in English and Spanish.

“It was very successful,” stated Concepcion, commenting that they had to procure more vaccines from the clinic and extend the scheduled time, in response to the amount of the people who showed up.

Apart from medical staff and Barba herself, present and actively involved in the event were Madeline Bermudez from REACH, and Jones, Concepcion and board member Cesar Liriano from Union. “Everyone was doing something, moving boxes, helping,” said Barba.

Those who received the vaccine were given a return date of May 16 for the second dose.

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