Story by Julia DiGiacomo
RISE AmeriCorps members at Mary Treglia Community House were instrumental in helping a COVID-19 vaccine clinic run smoothly. The Sioux City non-profit opened its doors to vaccinate 250 people within the span of several hours last Wednesday, March 17.
The goal of the event was to help immigrants and refugees overcome language and technology barriers to receive protection against the coronavirus.
“I think we’ve all heard how hard it is for anyone that isn’t technologically literate to sign up for a vaccine appointment,” Mary Treglia Community House Executive Director Becky Carlson said. “So we wanted to be able to provide another option.”
Most vaccine providers in Iowa, such as Hy-Vee, Walgreens, and CVS only offer appointments on their websites, which limits accessibility for immigrants and refugees without computer experience. Non-English speakers can also face obstacles navigating the blocks of English text on the applications.
Instead, Mary Treglia Community House only required a phone call to register for the clinic. They also reached out directly to immigrant and refugee staff and clients. Interpreters assisted patients with the registration and vaccination process.
Local news coverage and word of mouth spread information and helped increase registration beyond expectations. The clinic was also the first in the area to include people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions, which drove up demand for the vaccine.
“We’re still getting calls,” Carlson said the day after the clinic.
As a result of the surge in registration, many people vaccinated were English speakers from the Sioux City surrounding areas. However, Mary Treglia Community House’s interpreters still kept busy helping non-English speakers. Food production workers, many of whom are immigrants and refugees, were one of the eligible groups vaccinated.
RISE AmeriCorps members Samson Weldu and Brianna Marroquin helped staff coordinate the rush of people. Weldu helped with check-ins and monitored the patients for 15 minutes after their shots in case of allergic reactions.
Weldu, who was born and raised in Eritrea, has also been an advocate for the safety and effectivity of COVID-19 vaccines. Carlson says he’s important for raising trust of the vaccine in African refugee communities.
Although the event was extremely busy, Weldu says the Mary Treglia Community House team made it work. The patients were happy for the chance to receive the Moderna doses.
“Everybody was really helpful,” Weldu said. “It was my first time working with so many people. But it was a good experience.”