Event helps Eastside residents get vaccinated

Concern for their families motivated several Eastside residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Aug. 21 at a neighborhood event, billed as the Neighborhood Vaccination and Health Check.

Having the event at midday on a Saturday, and at an Eastside Kansas City location, made the shots more accessible, some of those getting vaccinated said. Clear explanations of how the vaccines work and what to expect from the shots also helped ease residents’ concerns.

One of the first people to get vaccinated was Nicolas Alvarez, who works for the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council maintaining its properties.

“I’ve been meaning to get vaccinated, and this was the perfect opportunity,” he said. “I live with my parents, and I didn’t want them to get COVID.”

He was joined in getting vaccinated by his girlfriend and his younger brother. “And there’s another event like this Sept. 11, where we can get our second shots,” Alvarez said.

Throughout the day, several people from the area joined him in getting vaccinated or being tested for COVID-19, and being screened for other health issues including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Because of its large parking area, the Ivanhoe Council played host to the event, in collaboration with the Our Healthy KC Eastside project. The Santa Fe Area Council, the Key Coalition and the Boston Heights and Mount Hope Neighborhood Association also took part.

The event was staffed in part by UMKC students from the health sciences district, many of whom have been trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Their ability to answer questions about the vaccine eased 18-year-old Marcus Martin’s decision to get his first shot. “They explained everything,” Martin said, “which helped because I was a little nervous.”

Concern for his family was also a big motivator, said Martin, who came to the event with his mother and sister.

“Everybody else at home is vaccinated now,” he said, “and I didn’t want to possibly hurt them.”

Our Healthy KC Eastside is partnering with neighborhood associations, churches, businesses and youth organizations and will be holding several more vaccine and preventive health care events through November. The project came about when Jackson County granted $5 million of its federal CARES Act COVID-fighting money to UMKC to promote vaccinations and other health services.

Our Healthy KC Eastside is led by Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., a UMKC professor who also heads the UMKC Health Equity Institute and Community Health Research Group.

Vaccine event brings neighborhoods together to promote public health

Residents from four Kansas City neighborhood associations gathered Aug. 21 at a midday event making COVID-19 vaccines and other health resources available to their communities.

The event accomplished its primary purpose — to get more residents vaccinated, from 12-year-olds to senior citizens. And it offered several other health services, including screening for high blood pressure and diabetes and opportunities to get linked to other health services and community resources. There were also opportunities to complete a survey on health beliefs and behaviors regarding COVID-19 and to participate in several research studies.

The event accomplished its primary purpose — to get more residents vaccinated, from 12-year-olds to senior citizens. And it offered several other health services,  including screening for high blood pressure and diabetes and opportunities to get linked to other health services and community resources. There were also opportunities to complete a survey on health beliefs and behaviors regarding COVID-19 and to participate in several research studies.

Michelle Clark, secretary with the Key Coalition neighborhood group, said the event was the sort of outreach and hard work “that are what we have to do. Everyone wants to get back to some sort of normal, and to do that we have to get people to do the right things and take care of themselves.”

Marquita Taylor, the president of the Santa Fe Area Council, agreed. “There’s power in numbers, and we can have that if we talk with each other and stand together. It’s hard work but it’s also an honor to serve these strong neighborhoods with great histories. In time of need, let’s come together.”

Our Healthy KC Eastside was made possible by a Jackson County grant to UMKC of $5 million. Provided through the county’s federal CARES Act funds, the project promotes vaccinations and other health services in Eastside communities. Our Healthy KC Eastside has lined up churches, youth organizations and businesses to spread the word and hold similar vaccine events.

Such events also provide good experience for UMKC pharmacy, medical, nursing and dental students. Nearly 100 are being trained to assist with COVID-19 vaccines, and several of them at this event were learning first-hand how to check blood pressure and screen for diabetes.

Stefanie Ellison, M.D., associate dean for learning initiatives at the School of Medicine and a professor of emergency medicine, has coordinated student volunteers throughout the pandemic.

She said UMKC students’ willingness to help and to learn has shined in response to the pandemic, providing several real-time opportunities to promote interprofessional education. “It’s gotten us to do what we’ve wanted to do all along,” said Ellison, in terms of having students from the different health care schools learn together and from one another.

The event also was a chance for researchers to connect with people in the community. A researcher from Children’s Mercy, for example, gathered contact information so she could check later with participants to see if the event’s educational resources led to getting vaccinated after the event, or if they faced barriers to getting vaccinated, such as a lack of transportation or the inability to take time off work. Other researchers looked for people who already had COVID-19, to possibly study their mental health challenges and other after-effects of the pandemic.

Besides preventive health care services and advice, the event included entertainment and refreshments. From a hotdog stand and photo booth, to live DJs and a backpack giveaway, there was something for everyone.  

“This is the biggest event we’ve been able to have since COVID,” said Dennis Robinson, the board president for the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council. “It’s frustrating and sad to have an effective vaccine and not have more people take advantage of it.”

Robinson, who attended UMKC in 1967 and 1968, had a long career with General Motors, working in its insurance division. After retirement, he became active with Legal Aid and other non-profits but eventually cut back just to his neighborhood council. “Ivanhoe is a great neighborhood, and we have a small but outstanding staff and board,” he said. “I’m so happy to be able to help, and every dozen vaccines we get fills the bucket a little more. Every little bit helps.”

Center for Neighborhoods Director Leads KC Neighborhood Vaccine Efforts

UMKC’s Dina Newman plays a critical role in the COVID outreach project

“Our Healthy KC Eastside” (OHKCE) is a large-scale, community-based partnership addressing vaccine hesitance and health inequities in vulnerable portions of Jackson County, Mo. Meet the community partners who are dedicated to improving Jackson County’s residents’ lives.

Dina Newman, director of the UMKC Center for Neighborhoods, has been involved in community engagement and development for more than 25 years. She is committed to elevating neighborhood health and viability through collaboration with residents.

“At the Center for Neighborhoods, we understand the frustration of getting correct information to communities of concern,” Newman says. “We have worked with almost 200 neighborhood leaders in 80 neighborhoods who we have developed relationships with and a level of trust.  Our involvement in OHKCE was a natural fit.”

Newman and her team organized one of the first vaccination events for the neighborhood sector. Based on her experience, she knew that the East 23rd Street PAC Neighborhood Association had the capacity to host a successful event.

“We thought piggybacking on an established community event in the neighborhood would be most effective, so we hosted the first event at a high school parking lot for a neighborhood cleanup.”

Newman says approximately 200 people attended, and some took advantage of the vaccination opportunity.

“The first event was a good trial,” she says. “There were some hiccups, but it was a good way to see the challenges firsthand. People came with their families. And people showed up to have a conversation. Having conservations with neighborhood residents is not unusual.”

While is it’s very important, Newman does not want the focus to be primarily on the number of people vaccinated at these events. Other health services are available as well.

“When we work in the community, we see a lot of multigenerational families in attendance. It’s a great opportunity to have a conversation with the grandmother who may have been there with two grandchildren. It gives us the opportunity – if the grandchildren are 12 years old or older – to say, ‘They can be vaccinated, too.’ Those conversations are really important.”

Newman says other discussions that took place at the event were significant, as well.

“We had people wander over to the table and say that every time they turn on the news, there’s different information. Then we have the chance to say, ‘Why don’t you sit down, and we can talk about it?’ And through talking with people in a respectful way, that is effective. Some people did get the vaccine after that.”

But Newman does not determine the measure of success based on a single event.

“People will leave these events and share information with their friends and families. So, it’s exponential the influence they have. And by the time the second event – for the follow up vaccine – happens in their neighborhood, the number of people touched by this information is going to multiply.”

And that, Newman says, is success.