Tatiana Ron (in blue sweater), community health worker for Centro Comunitario CEUS, with Valerie Pineiro of the N.J. Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey.
Centro Comunitario CEUS, a New Jersey nonprofit serving immigrants, displayed Spanish-language flyers explaining the need for vaccines from the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants.
William, a 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, was walking along a busy street in North Bergen, N.J., one sunny afternoon when he was approached by Tatiana Ron, a community health worker for Centro Comunitario CEUS, a nonprofit serving immigrants.
“Have you been vaccinated?” Tatiana asked. The answer was no, so Tatiana led him to a mobile unit nearby, where workers with the North Bergen Health Department gave him a COVID-19 vaccine.
“There’s a pandemic and if we have the vaccine, I want to have it,” William said after getting the shot. “I need to be protected.”
Promoting Vaccination Among Immigrants
Reaching people like William is the goal of CEUS’s Project Vax Outreach, which is funded by the N.J. Department of Health through the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey. The project focuses on immigrants, especially those who lack legal immigration status and may be reluctant to seek help from a government or social services agency.
Tatiana and her fellow CEUS community health worker, Isabel Gazquez, work closely with health departments in Hudson County, N.J., where immigrants make up 43 percent of the population.
The health workers use different strategies to promote the vaccine.
“If they’re older, I say, ‘People your age are at high risk. You don’t want to spend a month in the hospital,’” Isabel said. “If they’re younger, I say, ‘You’ll need the vaccine when you go to college, or if you want to go to restaurants in New York, or a Broadway show.’”
Meeting An Urgent Need
Isabel and Tatiana recently began handing out Spanish-language information sheets supplied by the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants (NRC-RIM). At this point, with most of New Jersey’s population vaccinated, the community health workers are increasingly facing people who are very skeptical of the vaccine. CEUS finds NRC-RIM’s Spanish-language materials with solid facts help make the case for vaccination.
Since mid-2021, CEUS has contacted thousands of immigrants, in person or by telephone; held vaccine clinics at its office and at churches, and distributed thousands of flyers. CEUS is grateful for the materials supplied by NRC-RIM.
This story was submitted by Kathleen Lynn, volunteer at Centro Comunitario CEUS, and lightly edited. Learn more about CEUS on their website and Facebook. Learn about their partner, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health, on their website and Facebook.