by: Brittany Schaefer, Jacqui Gomersall
Posted: Apr 10, 2021 / 09:50 PM EDT / Updated: Apr 14, 2021 / 08:34 PM EDT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Equity-focused vaccination clinics are being held this weekend in Providence and Woonsocket.
Organizers of Saturday’s clinic at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center said it was a success, leaving hundreds of residents informed, comfortable, and vaccinated.
Claire Chiu described the emotional moment she got her first shot.
“I cried when I was walking down the stairs. It was just an incredible experience,” she said.
The goal — aiming to reduce the racial disparity in vaccination rates in Rhode Island.
“We’ve seen how this pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color so the more people that are vaccinated the better it is for all of us,” Providence City Councilor Nirva LaFortune said.
Volunteers told 12 News, some people of color are hesitant to get the vaccine, but Saturday’s event made a difference. They said seeing members of the community and medical staff who look like them puts them at ease.
“They feel safe. They feel they will be treated with respect. They feel if they have a concern they will be listened too,” Dr. Katrina Byrd said.
“We just want to provide those facts and make people comfortable,” Exec. Dir. of Black Lives Matter RI Harrison Tuttle said.
Gov. Dan McKee visited the Providence vaccination site. The tour did not allow media inside the facility.
According to the Dept. of Health, just 3 percent of slots were given to the Black community who represent 8 percent of the state. Meanwhile, 9 percent were given to Hispanics who represent 16 percent of residents.
“It clearly is a disparity and that’s why we’re hitting it head on,” Gov. McKee said.
In Providence, interpreters covered several languages. Volunteers greeted residents with conversation and answers to their questions.
“Just kinda relating to them and talking to them about what’s going on in their life and bringing them here today and just making it light,” Direct Action for Rights & Equality’s Managing Director Kiah Bryant said.
“We’re cheerleading here and having fun and making everyone feel welcome, Ineida Rosha said.
For those who missed the event and are interested, the BIPOC vaccine initiative will be back in Providence and Woonsocket on Sunday and next weekend.
“To support the efforts in Providence at this Community Vaccination Center at the Dunk, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided extra federal staffing, funding and logistical to support to the ongoing site operations,” Kevin Sur, a spokesperson for FEMA said. “The impacts of our collective work continues to enhance Rhode Island’s safety and against the daily spread of COVID.”
The state hopes to vaccinate 12,000 people in those four days.