Two COVID-19 vaccine clinics have opened in Alamance County in an effort to vaccinate marginalized communities in the area. CityGate Dream Center and Eric Lane where JR Cigars is, are now COVID-19 vaccination sites, as of March 19.
The clinics are meant to address disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates specifically in the Latino community, but also in other populations of color, as they have lower vaccination rates than white residents. The Dream Center is a community center in Burlington that serves mostly the Latino residents in the county.
The clinics are deliberately being run Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Mondays so that people won’t have to miss work if they experience any symptoms after their shot. People are able to sign up for vaccinations by phone for the Dream Center and Eric Lane vaccination locations, or at the Dream Center. Spanish-speaking volunteers will also be present at the clinics.
“Just to provide access, even because a lot of what the opportunities have been online, some people don't even really have access to that or know how to go about doing that,” said Lisa Edwards, executive director of CityGate Dream Center. “So we were able to say we’ll have people standing by too if you need to come in and make an appointment here.”
There will also be a Link bus stop to the Dream Center and Eric Lane. The bus leaves from the Worth Street bus hub. Transportation to the Dream Center is free of charge and riders must let their bus driver know.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is supplying 1,200 doses to each clinic a week for the next seven weeks, according to a press release from Cone Health. These vaccine clinics are support locations to FEMA’s mass vaccination site one county over in Greensboro, at the Four Seasons Town Centre. The clinics are being done in partnership with Cone Health, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA.
The mass vaccination site and support clinics are meant to ensure the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines as Latino residents are getting vaccinated at lower rates than white residents in the county and state. Latino residents in Alamance County have also been infected with COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.
Existing health disparities contribute to the rate of COVID-19 cases and accessibility to the vaccine according to Cornell Wright, executive director of NCDHHS’s office of minority health.
“We're seeing these inequities [in health care] due to various factors and a lot of historical context is connected to those factors as well,” Wright said. “We could talk about systems. We could talk about racism. We could talk about lack of access, and then how those play a part in how people are perceived and treated in systems of health and health care.”
Edwards has seen how the pandemic has impacted the Latino community in Alamance County.
Edwards said accessibility to the vaccine is why she thinks vaccination rates are low for Latino residents. She said the move to Group 3 and 4, which includes frontline workers and those in congregate living, has helped increase accessibility in addition to the clinic.
“I think it's more just lack of access up until now, it just became more open as far as who's eligible also. When it was 65 and over, we were having some opportunities to reach out to people for clinics, but there just weren't as many people in that age bracket that we were able to reach,” Edwards said. “So I think just even opening it up more where there's more people that are eligible has really helped too... Just knowing where to go and for it to be a place that you're familiar with and places that's close to you.
According to Debbie Grant, chief nursing officer and vice president with Cone Health, the expansion of who is eligible to get the vaccine will also help vaccinate the county’s Hispanic and Latino residents.
“Many Hispanic residents work as essential workers and many live in households with parents who are at very high-risk for COVID-19,” Grant said in a press release. “These safe vaccines are a highly-effective way to protect our families and the ones we love.”
During the pandemic, the Dream Center has provided resources to the county’s Latino community. The center saw an increased need for basic supplies like food, diapers and menstrual products during the pandemic as economic hardship spread.
Last summer, the Dream Center distributed free meals to the community, oftentimes in partnership with local businesses, but had to cease distribution due to funding. The center is now resuming meal distribution on March 20.
Meals are being distributed at 1003 W Main Street located down the street from the center on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. The meal distribution site, called the DC Community Kitchen, will eventually be open full time.
The Dream Center is able to have this location after receiving a grant from Impact Alamance. Non-profit organizations could receive between $5,000-$20,000 after Impact Alamance allocated $120,000 in grant money to be used for COVID-19 relief in February 2021.
There are opportunities to volunteer at the meal distribution site and the vaccination clinics. Elon University is offering an alternative spring break trip to volunteer at this meal distribution location. Those interested in volunteering at the Dream Center or Eric Lane vaccine clinic can sign up online.