Bryan Ballroom vaccine subhub administers 227 shots to local Hispanic community Sunday

Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 11:22 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - A vaccine subhub was set up at the Bryan Ballroom Sunday and administered 227 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to one of Bryan’s underserved Hispanic communities.

All anyone had to do to get one of the 400 available doses of the Moderna vaccine was show up. No appointment was required. These community subhubs are vital to the vaccination effort because they really are the only means of accessing the vaccine for those who choose to get their shot there.

Brazos County Judge for Precinct 4 Celina Vasquez says the Bryan Ballroom is located in the heart of Bryan’s Hispanic community.

“Our community feels trusted and safe to come to this location to obtain their Moderna vaccine,” Brazos County Judge for Precinct 4 Celina Vasquez said.

That proximity to their homes, schools, and churches is one of many reasons it’s the best chance to access the vaccine.

Angelita Alonzo is with the Parish Social Ministry at Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Bryan.

“They work in jobs where they don’t have the flexibility to take off from work between 8 and 5,” Alonzo said. “Many of them work Saturdays as well.”

Just knowing about the vaccine and its benefits has also been an issue for Latinos. A majority of people who got their shot Sunday speak only Spanish and overcoming that language barrier has been difficult.

“A lot of people haven’t heard the information about why it’s important to get the vaccine, and they don’t know where to go to get it,” Amigos of the Brazos Valley President Dora Cruzan said.

“They rely on information about services, about the vaccine, they rely on Spanish language media outlets, even Facebook,” Alonzo said.

This subhub is doing its job reaching people the primary hub at the Brazos Center wouldn’t. Francia Vaez, a Bryan resident, says she wasn’t even aware the Brazos Center was a vaccination hub in the first place. She also said she wasn’t planning on getting vaccinated until she went to church with her grandmother Sunday morning.

“Actually, I was just going to come to translate for her,” Vaez said. “The lady was like, ‘You should get vaccinated for your family,’ so she convinced me to get the vaccine. It was pretty easy and no big deal.”

Vasquez says there’s still a lot of work to do in overcoming both a lack of information and misinformation about vaccinations. She attributes those problems to the lack of messaging in Spanish and targeted outreach efforts to communities that are overlooked.

“We need messaging and trusted leaders to be able to spread the word about this community vaccination hub,” Vasquez said. “We definitely used the Spanish radio stations La Jefa and Radio Alegria, in addition to the Spanish newspaper La Voz Hispana, and even old-fashioned phone trees. It’s Santa Teresa Parish Social Ministry and Amigos of the Brazos Valley. It’s peer to peer and friend to friend.”

Alonzo says that misinformation is contributing to some vaccine hesitancy throughout the Hispanic community as well.

“There’s misinformation. There’s a language barrier. There are cultural and religious beliefs that they hold dear,” Alonzo said. “It’s a complex problem, but one that I believe that we can overcome if we reach out to the community in the places they feel safe and in the churches they trust with their own community leaders.”

“When our father from Santa Teresa got his shot, that meant a lot to the Hispanic community,” Vasquez said. “They saw the pastor get his shot, and he’s a trusted source. Once the padre did that, they felt more comfortable.”

The subhub was open from noon to 4 p.m. and 30 volunteers, most of whom speak fluent Spanish, made it operate smoothly.

A.J. Renold, Executive Director of the local American Red Cross chapter and person overseeing Sunday’s operation, says the subhub will reopen on May 16 to administer second doses. At this time, she says there are no plans to open other subhubs in the community for first doses in the immediate future.

The Hispanic Forum of Bryan College Station, meanwhile, has also been helping with Spanish-speaking outreach efforts. In addition to helping register people to get the vaccine, the nonprofit has created a vaccine information section on its website, where commonly asked questions are answered in Spanish about the COVID-19 vaccine. The president of the organization has also been on local Spanish radio stations, and Facebook interviews with News 3′s Karla Castillo discussing the importance of getting the vaccine, who is eligible and how people can seek an appointment.

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