CLEVELAND — Aracelis Casiano is a Cleveland Hispanic mother of seven who explained how her family was very unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of 2021, but said local church outreach helped her family to feel comfortable and accept the vaccine this June.
Casiano said her family was unsure about the safety of mass vaccination sites like the one hosted at the Wolstein Center in Downtown Cleveland, or using mass transit to get to that location.
“My children were afraid to go to the clinic because so many people going in and out, so they didn’t feel that safe because they said the virus is up there too," Casiano said.
Casiano said she and her family accepted the vaccine when the Community of Faith Collaborative put together a vaccine clinic at their church, Iglesia Emmanuel, located on Cleveland's West Side.
“They feel more comfortable going to a small place to get the vaccine with people we already know, especially Latino people," Casiano said.
Bishop Omar Medina, President and Founder of the Community of Faith Collaborative, said his team was able to work with several Northeast Ohio Hispanic churches to organize a series of vaccination clinics at those locations.
Medina said a coalition of 53 Hispanic churches statewide has now help to bring the Latino vaccination rate up significantly, with nearly 47% of Ohio's Latino population getting at least one dose of the vaccine, more than 2% about the state average.
“There is some hesitancy and the fear among the Latino population," Medina said. "We needed to find pastors who were willing to actually open the doors of their churches for vaccination clinics.”
"Some in the Hispanic community felt a disconnection going to the Wolstein Center, they did not feel safe taking public transportation. So let’s bring the vaccine to our neck of the woods, to our neighborhoods, in culturally sensitive environment,” Medina said. “When they see that their loved ones are doing it, and people that they trust are doing it, then they follow that example...We have found that this grassroots approach is very, very effective within the Latino communities, in any county and pretty much in any state. I think that this can be duplicated.”
Medina said the next vaccination clinic in Cleveland's Hispanic community is set for Saturday, Sept. 25, sponsored by the Hispanic UMADAOP and located at 3305 W. 25th Street in Cleveland from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..