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Collaborative Efforts Results In Vaccine Dialogue For Hispanic Outreach

Pictured from left are Celia Wilson, Dr. Raul Vazquez, Pastor Jamiel Melendez, and Solimar Vazquez.

Outreach and communication about the importance of getting the COVID vaccine continued last Thursday through a collaboration with the Chautauqua County Department of Health, Jamestown Public Schools, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County, G-Health Enterprises and local Hispanic pastors.

The partnership created videos to reach the Spanish-speaking population in Chautauqua County. The collaboration is in anticipation of a Moderna vaccination clinic, for anyone 18 years of age or older, on Thursday at Love Elementary School, 50 E. Eighth St., Jamestown from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The clinic will be run by the Chautauqua County Department of Health. Walk-ins are welcome or the community can register at http://bit.ly/love5621 or by calling 1-866-604-6789. Spanish translators will be on hand to help the community through the vaccination process.

“Fair and equitable distribution of vaccine is essential to community immunization efforts,” said Christine Schuyler, county public health director. “Vaccination data and meetings with our nonprofit partners emphasized the need for better outreach to the Hispanic community and we are excited to partner on informational sessions and vaccination clinics.”

Chautauqua County members of the WNY Vaccine Equity Taskforce, which includes Amy Rohler (United Way), Todd Tranum (Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce) and Michael Pease (the Chautauqua Center) along with local hospitals and members of the County Department of Health, were convinced that the most effective outreach into the Hispanic population would include trusted local voices and medical professionals. The idea for a local “town hall style” panel of Hispanic community members was born.

“From the start of the vaccine rollout it was important to all of us on my COVID-19 Response Team to ensure the vaccine is accessible to all in Chautauqua County,” said County Executive PJ Wendel, who was present at the recording. “For these information sessions we knew it was important to have a medical doctor on the panel, opportunities for Q&A, and we wanted it to be entirely in Spanish.”

Panel members included Dr. Raul Vazquez, founder and CEO of G-Health Enterprises in Buffalo, Jamestown High School Paraprofessional Celia Wilson, Elimilec Perez, Mentoring Program Coordinator for Chautauqua Striders, Pastor Alfonso Pagan from Nueva Vida Covenant and Pastor Jamiel Melendez from Iglesia Pentecostal Casa Restauradora. The panel was divided into two groups – one with members who had received the COVID vaccine and one with members who had not. Dr. Vazquez participated in both, answering questions and concerns while speaking from his personal and professional experience. Solimar Vazquez, Secretary to County Executive Wendel, moderated both panels. Jamestown High School Videography Teacher, Sam Qadri, filmed the video in the high school’s studio classroom. Local students assisted in producing and editing the video, so it could be used widely in the community and in a variety of settings.

Visit www.jpsny.org/vaccine to watch the full videos.

“JPS is committed to supporting our community,” said JPS Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker. “In addition to our staff, led by Sam Qadri, producing the panel videos at JHS, we are happy to partner with the Department of Health to host the vaccine clinic at Love School, which makes it more convenient for our community members to obtain their vaccinations. We were so fortunate that Dr. Vazquez, and all of the panel members, could join our video. Dr. Vazquez’ knowledge about the vaccine and ability to address concerns was outstanding. The perspectives and input of all the panel members is invaluable information for our Hispanic community in order to better understand the importance of getting vaccinated.”

Dr. Raul Vazquez, CEO of G-Health Enterprises, has been active in vaccine outreach in the Buffalo area, where he operates five clinics. He is also a member of the WNY Vaccine Equity Taskforce–which is how Rohler met him. Most recently, his team provided a pop-up clinic in Irving, NY at the Native Pride Travel Plaza as a way to reach the underserved in rural communities. He has conducted multiple town-halls and pop up clinics across Western New York. Born in Puerto Rico, he received his undergraduate degree from Fordham University, received his medical degree from SUNY Buffalo, and has more than 32 years of experience in the medical field. In many of his town-halls, he speaks openly about his personal experiences with COVID-19, becoming a doctor because of early childhood experiences of seeing emergency room physician’s unable to understand his Uncle’s Spanish, and why he has made it his mission to alleviate barriers for underrepresented populations.

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