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A welcoming approach to vaccinating communities.

Imagine seeing an advertisement or flyer about COVID-19 vaccine and immediately thinking it doesn’t apply to you.  Suzanne Pak, director of community and behavioral health at the Korean Women’s Association (KWA), says that’s how many people she works with feel.

Pak works a lot with immigrant communities in Pierce County. She helps people find the care they need and provides education about COVID-19 and other health issues.

Photo shows Suzanne Pak of the Korean Women's Association at an event.

“There is an assumption,” she says, “by some first-generation immigrants they aren’t eligible for resources or that the mainstream society doesn’t view them as being rightful.”

A close sense of community.

The community KWA creates makes it easier for people to feel comfortable asking questions about vaccines.

The agency’s Culturally Responsive Integrated & Strength Based Parenting program welcomes BIPOC parents and creates a safe space. They’ve had sessions about everything from masking to vaccines and health safety for children.

“It’s important to treat people with good intent when they come from this place and let them know other parents have had these concerns and have gotten vaccinated,” Pak says. “It’s a journey.”

These spaces thrive when there is no judgement–when people can ask any questions and hear other people have the same concerns.

An unwelcome feeling.

Pak says she’s learned making people feel welcome when they ask for help goes a long way. While there are many resources available, some in her communities feel unwelcome when it comes to using them.

“You have communities that have battled through so much discrimination that you have to go above and beyond to make them feel comfortable seeking help”  she says.

Some people will go to a clinic with the best intentions, she says, but a bad experience like someone raising their voice over a language barrier, can change their mind.

“Immigrants have a positive view of the healthcare field and doctors and trust their advice,” Pak says. “This can be counteracted by racism and discrimination from employees or people that make them feel less than.”

In some situations, people still experience discrimination even when bringing their English-speaking adult children with them. Being patient, she says, can make all the difference.

“This is all part of health.”

Pak feels that when it comes to educating people about COVID-19, we should treat it as part of our overall health.

“It’s not good when COVID-19 is treated as a different thing because it falls prey to more politicization,” she says. “We say this is important because it’s a pandemic but really, it’s no different than a session about brushing your teeth, getting breast cancer screenings or a flu shot. This is all part of health.”

She’s seen the most success when people can easily talk to doctors and get the proper education. Asking questions and listening to trusted messengers goes a long way.

Find your dose.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you can find your dose at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.

Everyone 5 and older is eligible. If you need a ride to an appointment or can’t easily leave your home, we can help! Call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

And you can do even more to help stop the spread.  

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