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Building Trust in COVID-19 vaccine

As a community outreach worker, one of the biggest rewards of my job is getting out of the office and talking to people.

For the next few weeks, I will join our community outreach team in Parkland and Spanaway as we talk with people who live and work there about COVID-19 vaccines. As a former Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) student and someone who currently calls Parkland home, I welcome this news. After more than a year of limited physical interaction, I look forward to getting a coffee at my favorite Parkland shop, saying hello, and doing the COVID-19 elbow-bump with familiar faces and hopefully meeting some new ones.

Parkland is one of my favorite spots in Pierce County. Along with diverse neighborhoods, you can find great restaurants, a resilient business community and PLU—a college that’s been in the neighborhood since 1890.

But Parkland also happens to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in Pierce County. From the Health Department’s ongoing Communities of Focus work and our COVID-19 Pierce County Health Equity Assessment, we know some communities like Parkland are more susceptible to negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Structural racism also creates disproportionate effects of COVID-19 among Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities.

We also know Parkland is strong and resilient and that’s where our community outreach team comes in. Having outreach workers from the community, who reflect people who live there, is key to making sure trusted and accurate information reaches those who need it most. When we all work together, we know we can increase vaccination rates.

Outreach workers are trusted sources of information from your community

You may see community outreach workers standing on sidewalks, sitting on front porches, or inside businesses talking with people who have questions or concerns about COVID-19 vaccine.

Malcolm Clay in Parkland/Spanaway

COVID-19 vaccine isn’t always a popular topic, but I approach conversations as respectfully as possible. The way I see it, we’re all human with a variety of experiences and perspectives, so I try to put myself in other people’s shoes.

Building trust starts with listening. Sometimes, it means acknowledging the medical system has performed grave injustices in the past on populations who were marginalized and vulnerable. Sometimes, it means helping people find immediate help like food or other resources.

Building trust is about meeting people where they are so they can make decisions to help protect themselves and their families.

Health is wealth.

As someone who had COVID-19, I share my own experience with the illness.

I’ve heard myths that COVID-19 isn’t that bad for young people. I can say that isn’t true. Young and old people can catch it. In the last 2 weeks, almost 26% of COVID-19 cases in Pierce County were among people 17 and under. These age groups also have the lowest vaccination rates.

I’m doing everything in my power to help prevent other people from getting sick, so we can all get back to normal, and maybe even do better than we did in the past.

I’m proud to be part of a team that provides resources to get people through tough times—whether we help you find resources for food, shelter, or are someone to talk to.

I recently worked with the Trinity Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Parkland, which is also one of our partner vaccine sites. Our team gave families care packages, shared information, and lent an ear to people who face situations out of their control.

I look forward to partnering with Parkland’s newly implemented Family Resource Center, which also now offers COVID-19 vaccines. Families can pick up supplies for their children and connect with resource navigators who point families to additional services.

COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, but people should know they don’t have to feel alone. Parkland is a community that cares. If you have questions or concerns about free and easy access to COVID-19 tests and vaccines in Pierce County, we’re here for you.

Find your dose.

You can find a dose at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture.

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 through Friday. We’ll return messages left over the weekend the next business day.

And you can do even more to help stop the spread of COVID-19: