Taking the COVID-19 Vaccine into Vulnerable Communities in Ocean County

NJHI: Small Grants Vaccine Equity in Ocean County

At the Lakewood chapter of New Labor, we focus on distributing information, coordinating vaccination sites, and ensuring that low-wage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. (BIPOC) workers in Ocean County have easy access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Our work focuses on the Latinx and Black community members of Ocean County. We approached the community with our anti-racist protocol, we talked to domestic workers about the Bill of Rights campaign and why we need to get vaccinated for the health of our community.

New Labor partnered with Ocean Health Initiatives at its Easter weekend festival at Lakewood Central Square, Lakewood, New Jersey on April 9, 2022. New Labor distributed information about the COVID-19 vaccines and the importance of why domestic workers and day laborers need to be vaccinated. Through our network, we heard stories about domestic workers who were employed in private homes, contracted COVID and became ill to the extent that they were not able to work. Some workers lost their jobs for quarantining, which is why New Labor invited the community to march with us at the New Labor Workers’ Memorial Day March and Rally. During this event, 80 people were vaccinated, including eight-year-old Ronnie!

During the Workers’ Memorial Day March and Rally on April 24 in New Brunswick, New Labor member Teresa told the crowd about how she got sick at the job around the same time her employer was sick with COVID-19. Her testimony inspired other domestic workers who were in attendance to negotiate better wages, better working conditions and prioritize their health.

Mercedes, a domestic worker, received her COVID-19 vaccine at Ocean Health Initiatives’ walk-in clinic because she cares about her family’s well-being. “Domestic workers are essential workers, and to protect our families and community, we need to get vaccinated,” she said.

This spring, New Labor was also thrilled to join the community effort to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to residents. In March, we formed street teams and canvassed downtown Lakewood. We were able to offer vaccinations to those who had previously lacked access to the vaccine. New Labor staff and volunteers canvassed nearby laundromats such as Express Laundromats and Laundry Time located near Clifton Avenue and Main Street. We met our goal of sharing trusted vaccine information with the Latinx and African American communities. They welcomed the educational materials about the COVID-19 vaccines. We also met individuals who had received one dose of the vaccine and wished to take the second dose. We referred them to our partners from Ocean Health Initiatives, who were well prepared to answer community members’ questions about vaccinations.

We take the health and safety of our employees and members, including the street teams, seriously. As part of our protocol, street teams always have six people with specific roles. The photos above show our street team that canvassed together on July 9. That team, pictured immediately above, consisted of:

  • Rosa, a neighborhood leader (front)
  • Elda, who was responsible for distributing fliers about upcoming trainings and programs (left)
  • Marcela, who distributed COVID-19 information fliers (right)
  • Doris, whose responsibility was to keep the team physically together while canvassing, (back left)
  • Martha, the team’s first aid provider in the event of an emergency (back right)

Not shown is Jen, who supervised the team. She walked behind the group to maintain an awareness of the team members’ location and activities and to be an accessible resource for them.  

Together, this team shared information with the neighborhood about our Domestic Worker Bill of Rights and opened conversations with the community about vaccines and working conditions. They also distributed fliers about upcoming trainings and encouraged the community to visit their local clinic to get vaccinated.

Browse reflections on similar efforts from across New Jersey in a new collection of community stories from the Moving NJ Forward Learning Collaborative.

The Grantee Blog regularly publishes updates from NJHI-supported communities. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.

Mary O’Brien and Jenifer Garcia
New Labor