Orange You Vaccinated Finds Opportunity to Build a Base of Community Members Who are Open to Advocating for Each Other
Orange You Vaccinated (OYV) has partnered with a number of Orange and East Orange business owners to coordinate over 50 COVID-19 vaccination events across both cities. We were also able to partner with epidemiologists, educators, community organizers and other health advocates at the local, state and national levels to help create The People’s CDC to serve as a trusted source for COVID-19 information. Over a six-month period, The HUUB and the OYV team have created new relationships with other community-based organizations that participate in the Moving NJ Forward Learning Collaborative, leading to more opportunities for collaboration and learning beyond the vaccination work.
We have built strong relationships within the communities of East Orange and Orange by bringing together a variety of organizations within the cities to gain trust and educate residents who have not yet taken the COVID-19 vaccine. Our partners in the OYV campaign include The Healthy Orange Coalition, University of Orange, Washington Shop Pharmacy, La Casa Don Pedro, The Township of Orange and the Township of East Orange. We also collaborated with the Townships of Orange and East Orange Board of Health offices, the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, other local pharmacies and grassroots coalitions in the community. In addition, we have received great support and referrals from our friends at CUMAC in Paterson, NJ.
One of our most impactful relationships has been with the seniors of Oakwood Avenue, where the OYV team shared vaccination information, and in turn, was fortunate enough to hear amazing stories about the City of Orange. This work led to one of the seniors, Miss “Sissy” Hammond, to become part of The HUUB’s “stories and dreams” project that highlights Orange residents and their true feelings about the community in which they live.
Early on in our work, we faced a challenge regarding the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccinations among our communities. Some residents were reluctant to come out because of the misinformation, while others were confused about which recommendations they should follow. During the COVID-19 spike in the winter of 2021, many people, including our HUUB colleagues, were affected. This slowed down our interactions with the community. It also seemed that people focused more on testing than getting vaccinated due to anti-vaccination campaigns and changing guidelines from the CDC that prompted confusion.
Our work continued. After learning that some residents didn’t trust the information being provided by traditional media outlets, OYV focused on sharing more resources for vaccinations deep into the community and also participated in the creation of The People’s CDC. OYV also partnered with The People’s CDC to create toolkits that answered questions for folks who wanted to feel safe during the ongoing pandemic but did not have access to straightforward and clear information.
Through this work, we’ve learned that building relationships with community residents starts with earning their trust, which allows us access to educating and vaccinating community members. This also gives us the opportunity to build a base of community members who are open to advocating for each other regarding other needs.
The locations where we set up vaccination clinics were a great opportunity to connect with different groups of people within the community. Vaccination locations should be prioritized around areas of high counts of residents who are experiencing homelessness or are not documented. We also feel that decision-makers in government should work on policies that protect everyone during a public health crisis in the future and that historically marginalized communities are prioritized for care and receiving trusted information.