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We’re bringing vaccine to the B&I and answering your COVID-19 questions.

The historic B&I Public Marketplace is home to many stores and shops. For years, it was home to Ivan the Gorilla.

This weekend, it will be home to COVID-19 vaccine.

The B&I holds a special place in the hearts of many, especially in our communities of color. Most of us don’t even have to look up the address, we just know where to go.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Centro Rendu of St. Vincent de Paul are teaming up for a clinic at the shopping center Saturday, Jan. 22.

Event flyer for B&I vaccine clinic in English

What is the B&I?

B&I Circus Store opened in 1946 at 8012 S. Tacoma Way in Lakewood and has transformed in the decades since.

The market is most remembered as the former home of Ivan, who was captured in Africa from poachers and purchased by B&I creator Earl Irwin. In the late ’60s, Irwin moved Ivan into a concrete cage in the store and the gorilla quickly became the main attraction.

In the early 1990s, the B&I went bankrupt and a petition to free Ivan picked up steam with animal rights activists and thousands of Tacoma school children. Eventually, he was moved to the Atlanta Zoo. His popularity spawned two books, a statue, stage production and even a Disney film. For anyone who saw Ivan there, it’s impossible not to think of him when you return to the B&I.

Over the years, the marketplace has also supported a diverse community who shop and sell goods there. Dozens of small shops mingle with a food court, a grocery store, beauty salon, pet shop, amusement center for children and more. You can find just about anything.  

Bringing vaccine to you.

The B&I is a fixture in our Latinx community. The various shops represent multiple diverse cultures for Spanish speakers. Unfortunately, this is one of our least vaccinated communities.

Only 62% of Pierce County residents are fully vaccinated. That’s not great. We have work to do. And only 41% in our Hispanic community are fully vaccinated. We must improve those numbers and protect our community.

We know language barriers and lack of information make it hard for people to get vaccinated. We also know vaccines are crucial to reduce your risk of hospitalization and death if you’re infected. That’s why we’re bringing this clinic to you.

We’ll be on hand to answer questions in English and Spanish about COVID-19 and vaccines. We want everyone to know vaccines are safe and effective. If you need a booster shot, we’ll have those too.

Why is this clinic so important?

As a bilingual community engagement and resource navigator, I help us work with communities hardest hit by COVID-19.

This clinic will help with Latinx outreach. We know how important the B&I is to our community. You’ll see familiar faces there who will make sure you feel safe. Lack of trust can stop people from getting vaccinated. When someone understands your culture and where you come from, it helps.

Come join us.

The clinic is Saturday, Jan. 22, from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. We’ll have 120 vaccine doses available and if we run out, we’ll help you find another of our clinics.

Vaccines remain the best defense we have against COVID-19. Kids 5 and older are eligible to get vaccinated and everyone 12 and older should get booster shots.

Christian from VT Radio will MC the event. We hope to see you there!

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

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