Vaccine equity means fair and just access to vaccines, including flu vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. In an effort to provide a convenient way for more people to access to the vaccines, GAP School, in partnership with M Health Fairview and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), hosted a vaccine clinic in October.
Change Inc.’s Social Work Lead, Gabriela Hernandez, along with our social work interns from Metro State University, and Change Inc.’s Cultural Community Outreach and Advocacy Coordinator, Adriana Galván, worked to coordinate the vaccine clinic. Between the bunch, they utilized our grants with the Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC to come together and put on this event for the community.
M Health Fairview provided nursing staff and other health care professionals to come and administer the vaccine to students, staff, and community members. M Health Fairview has a contract as a COVID-19 vaccine, testing and treatment provider for the community.
There are nearly 20 students who are a part of GAP School’s Healthcare Career Pathway who were actively involved in the event. Erika Thurston, Healthcare Pathway Manager at GAP School, organized the students and prepped them to help work at the vaccine clinic event. She said some of the goals for involved students were learning what happens at a vaccine clinic, what consent paperwork is needed from those receiving vaccines, and who the people are that administer the vaccines.
The vaccine clinic was also a good opportunity for students to practice basic jobs skills such as communicating with a supervisor and time management. Students helped by being greeters and time keepers, among other communications and leadership roles throughout the day. Erika explained that she has been helping to instruct students in the Healthcare Career Pathway program to be the spokespeople for public health this school year. Her hope is that these students can encourage their fellow students and family members to go get vaccinated, and to not be afraid, as there is still a lot of resistance towards vaccines in younger students that have recently immigrated to the United States.
One student from the Healthcare Career Pathway program who took part in the vaccine clinic event, Foziya Jara, said “It was very great to be a part of helping the people who came to the clinic to get their COVID vaccine or flu shot. I learned about organizing people and aligning [with others working the event].” Foziya just graduated at the end of October from GAP School and hopes to attend cosmetology or dental assistant schooling in the near future.
Collectively, a total of 38 flu shots and 19 COVID vaccines were administered at the clinic event. Erika is very happy with this turn out and said there were many students who would not have otherwise gotten their shots had it not been for the event. She also stated that “it was nice to see these students so willing to get vaccinated after seeing other students and staff doing it.”
As a part of our contract with the Minnesota Department of Health, Change Inc. assists with COVID-19, Information, Education and Outreach to underserved populations, especially those challenged by language and digital access to reliable information. Through its Cultural, Faith, and Disability team, MDH has created a network of providers and trusted leaders in the different communities that provide support needed through the pandemic.
While language access and technical support challenges are not limited to COVID-19, the pandemic brought light to the disparities in minority communities of access to health and education. At GAP School, the flu vaccine has been offered since 2015 by the Social Services Team. The network and our strong connections with providers have allowed us to sustain the event for a number of years, and longtime partnerships and collaborations allow us to advocate for programs and services to fulfill our commitment of empowering through education and social and mental support services.
The collaboration with MDH and Ramsey, Dakota, and Hennepin counties has given the opportunity for Adult Basic Education (ABE) students to become Community Health Workers, thanks in part to scholarships awarded to these students. Former students that took this route are still a strong support network for events and programing at GAP School.
The saved time and convenience of the clinic being located at their school greatly impacted the number of students who chose to get their shots. Erika also mentioned that the comfort of having their teachers and friends around was important because your first time getting a shot like this can be a nerve-wracking experience.
We’re all in this together, and every shot counts towards a healthier community. Thank you to all of the staff who helped to organize this event, and to our students who worked at the clinic and encouraged others to get vaccinated.