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Health & Wellness

Fort Worth Health Center Targets Underserved Patients, Pushes For Equal Vaccine Distribution

People wait in line for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
Tarrant County residents stand in line to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine at Southeast Community Health Center, on Jan. 22.

On Friday, more than 100 residents of Southeast Fort Worth received their first COVID-19 vaccination. The patients targeted are considered medically-disadvantaged and from geographical areas hard-hit by the disease.

When 63-year-old Fort Worth resident Jesus Solis received a call from his local clinic telling him he was eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine, he said it felt like it was now or never.

Hay mucha gente que no quiere. A mi me decían que no la tome. Que es un experimento. Pero yo dije ya que. Este virus ya tiene a todo mundo loco, said Solos, who’s originally from Durago, Mexico, in Spanish. “There are many people who do not want to [get vaccinated]. They told me not to take it and that it was an experiment. But what was I going to lose? This virus has everyone crazy.”

Solis is one of more than 100 residents of southeast Fort Worth who received their first COVID-19 vaccination on Friday.

The patients targeted are from geographical areas hard-hit by the disease and considered medically-disadvantaged, which means they lack health insurance and access to primary care doctors.

“It's important for us to where people work, play, pray and live so we can facilitate the process for them to have access to the vaccine,” said Catherine Oliveros, the vice president of Community Health Improvement for Texas Health Resources or THR.

twitter pics covid vaccine-2.jpg
Keren Carrión
Jesus Solis, 63, sits in the waiting area of Southeast Community Health Center for the recommended 15 minutes after getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

Solis suffers from hypertension, diabetes and angina pectoris. He got laid off early-pandemic from his job where he made gas valves. He said the virus has him growing impatient while stuck at home and that it has robbed him of his American liberty.

He lives in fear and worries about getting the virus. Solis said he does his best to stay safe by wearing two masks at all times.

Solis admits he was hesitant at first to get the vaccine, because he heard from family and friends that it wasn't safe. But his wife convinced him to come and take advantage of the opportunity.

Yo pienso que es más seguro tomando la vacuna que andar haciendo caso a otras gentes. A pesar de todas las enfermedades que tengo yo ahun asi vine por que no quiero que me pegue por que si me pega eso olvídese, said Solis in Spanish. “I think it is safer to take the vaccine than to listen to other people. Despite all the illnesses that I have, I still came here because I don't want to test positive for coronavirus. If I get the virus I don’t think I’ll make it.”

In hindsight he says the vaccine process was smooth and he's glad he came. This mistrust and misinformation is common in many communities of color.

“Making them available from organizations that they know and that they trust is important. Being able to provide them education to allay some of those fears and mistrust from the people that they know is important,” Oliveros said.

Oliveros said it's the organization’s mission to make things more equitable regarding who can get the vaccine by removing barriers like education, transportation, a lack of information because of limited internet access and fears of being uninsured.

twitter pics covid vaccine-4.jpg
Keren Carrión
Catherine Oliveros, VP of Texas Health Resources, partnered with Southeast Community Health Center to address equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine in Fort Worth.

“It’s different from being invited to get a vaccine by the public health authorities, than getting invited to by the clinic that you regularly come to. We called each patient and invited them,” said Susan Willis with North Texas Area Community Health Centers (NTACH).

Willis said it’s important to close the gaps. According to her, health providers need to identify solutions that are more appropriate for underserved communities.

People from these communities will not feel comfortable going to mega vaccine sites. They need to trust their local doctors.

At the clinic, patients checked in one by one, remaining six-feet apart while waiting in chairs for their turn and each station was cleaned after each patient left. More than 60% of patients, Willis says, prefer to speak Spanish when communicating about their health care. Each patient was offered an interpreter.

The Southeast NTACH location was one of six North Texas Area Community Health Centers THR is partnering with through Tarrant County Health.

As for Solis, he hasn’t been able to find a job, but stays hopeful that now as a vaccinated individual an opportunity will come around.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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