Read this article as it originally appeared Aug. 15, 2021 in nj.com.
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads, health care providers and social service organizations are urging those in marginalized communities — which were hit hardest at the height of the pandemic — to get vaccinated.
Some hospitals and organizations that serve such communities are taking advantage of a new push to get kids vaccinated as the new school year approaches to also target their parents and others in their households.
On Saturday, Casa de Esperanza, a nonprofit based in Bound Brook that provides legal services to immigrants, teamed up with Bound Brook High School to hold a vaccination clinic at the school.
“We decided to do this vaccination clinic because earlier this summer the nurse at Bound Brook High School told us that so few kids were vaccinated,” said Joyce Phipps, an attorney and director of Casa de Esperanza. “We have been doing summer workshops for immigrant teenagers and talking to their parents about the importance of vaccination. We made sure the high school logo and our logo were on the flyers so people would feel more comfortable. ”
“Getting vaccinated is critical because Delta seems to hit young people pretty hard,” Phipps said. “There’s trepidation in the immigrant community about the vaccine, some people think they’ll get sick from it, some people don’t want to get it because they’re undocumented and afraid.”
In a spike driven by the Delta variant largely among unvaccinated people, New Jersey’s seven-day average for newly confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 1,429, officials reported Friday, a climb of nearly 30% from a week ago and nearly 400% from a month ago.
On Saturday, state officials reported another 1,648 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11 more confirmed deaths.
Many health care providers and service groups say they have not made dramatic changes to vaccination efforts in light of the Delta variant. They say that they never stopped or reduced their efforts, and that the new rise in infections just reinforces the need to continue encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, an area hard hit by the pandemic, runs a weekly vaccination clinic every Thursday that is staffed with bilingual speakers.
Last week, Saint Michael’s started making the vaccine available to patients who arrive at their emergency department, as well as to those who visit their clinics.
“It’s part of our ongoing effort to work with our neighbors and community to control the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Alan Sickles, the CEO of Saint Michael’s, which serves Newark and the surrounding community.
“The challenges may be a little greater in this community. There’s a greater vaccine hesitancy than you might see” in other communities, Sickles said.
Sickles added that the hospital is encouraging those on its staff who are not vaccinated to get the jab, as well.
“We still have significant number of people who haven’t been vaccinated,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to break down those barriers.”
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has offered expanded hours at its clinic to facilitate access to the vaccine.
“Since vaccination became available, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has worked around the clock to ensure access, especially to those who may be hesitant about getting immunized,” said Darrell K. Terry Sr., the president and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of New Jersey.
“When needed, we have kept our clinic open seven days a week, 16 hours a day to accommodate demand. Walk-ins are always welcome,” Terry said. “We have set aside special clinic hours so that local faith groups can come in and get vaccinated.”
“We recognize that not everyone is able to or feels comfortable accessing the vaccine in a hospital setting,” he noted. “We have worked with numerous local churches, schools, community groups and senior centers to reach those who cannot come into the hospital.”
Terry added that they, too, are taking the opportunity to reach adults through school efforts to vaccinate students.
“Through our partnerships with Great Oaks Legacy Charter Schools and Kipp Team Academy Charter School we have been vaccinating not only children, but also their parents, principals and teachers.”
Last week, Hudson County health officials met with the county superintendent of schools and local school administrators to map out a plan to get students vaccinated, said Carrie Nawrocki, the executive director of the county-run Hudson Regional Health Commission.
“All of the Hudson County communities are being offered vaccine in any way possible,” said Nawrocki. “Given the Delta variant and schools starting soon, one area we have been focusing on heavily is the adolescent population 12-17. We are all on the same page and are out in the communities promoting vaccine at this time.”
Elizabeth Llorente may be reached at ELlorente@njadvancemedia.com.