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Community groups prepare vaccine efforts for underserved populations

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

PHOENIX – The same group of community partners who brought mass COVID-19 testing to South Phoenix are now preparing vaccination efforts.

The HeroZona and Equality Health Foundation launched the nation’s largest free COVID-19 testing site last July. They have continued offering testing and wrap-around services to more than 35,000 individuals in diverse, underserved communities.

The community groups hope to take what they have learned from the COVID-19 testing sites and apply it to their community-based Point of Dispensing (POD) vaccine system planned to launch this spring.

While COVID-19 vaccine supply remains an issue and prioritization for the vaccine has yet to be expanded, the group is currently working on a public awareness campaign.

The campaign is focused on building trust and debunking myths regarding the vaccine in hopes of getting more people immunized when it’s their turn.

Starting in March, doctors and nurses who reflect the community are expected to share their stories about getting the vaccine.

“You have to have people involved that those communities have a relationship with,” Alan “AP” Powell with the HeroZona Foundation said.

The HeroZona and Equality Health Foundation are also focused on not creating additional barriers for diverse communities, as they have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic.

The project has started to address obstacles in accessing existing state-run POD sites by helping vulnerable minority populations register for their doses.

The coalition plans to activate the community-based micro-POD vaccination sites in minority communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic sometime in April.

Once the site is active, the coalition will work with various hiring agencies and community-based organizations to employ volunteers and staff that reflect the communities they are serving.

“It’s important that we have culturally competent volunteers and staff working at those sites, making sure they can communicate to them in their language and understand their culture,” Tomás León, interim CEO of the Equality Health Foundation, said.

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