Vaccination Clinic Reaches Out To Iowa's Asian Communities
The chairs of the Filipino-American Society of Iowa wanted to make sure COVID-19 vaccines were available to everyone who wants one, even if they don't speak English fluently.
At the vaccination event on Saturday, there will be several interpreters working in a number of different languages including Burmese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, French, Laotian, Korean and Spanish. They are also hoping to find Mandarin and Cantonese interpreters.
Larry McBurney is the executive co-chairman of the group and helped plan the event.
“We felt like there were quite a few obstacles in the way of AAPI and minority population from getting their COVID vaccine, one of those biggest hurdles being the language barrier," McBurney explained. "We felt that having as many folks available on site to help interpret and convey that information to them would hopefully push for a bigger turnout."
It is estimated 2 percent of Iowa's total vaccinations have been administered to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Members of the AAPI community make up almost 3 percent of the state's population, which means vaccine outreach or access is still missing a portion of the Asian community.
That was the portion Luisita Thompson, the founder and executive chair of the Filipino-American Society of Iowa hoped to reach through this event. Even though the event is aimed toward AAPI, Thompson said it is still open to anyone seeking the vaccine.
"When we initially planned this event, we wanted to target more this special population, like in the Asian American, Pacific Islander community, non-English speaking, and the minorities, immigrants and refugees," Thompson said. "And we also wanted to be open for everyone as well."
In addition to offering different language services, McBurney said he thought more Asian Iowans would feel comfortable coming to an event led by an Asian organization.
Acts of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased from 2019 to 2020. Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,795 incidents from March 2020 to Feb. 2021. The report emphasizes this number only reflects incidents which were reported, and estimates there were many more.
The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill to combat hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
This opportunity allowed us to reach out to folks who really didn't feel like they had somebody to lean on.
"We felt as though this [vaccination clinic] opportunity allowed us to reach out to folks who really didn't feel like they had somebody to lean on," McBurney said.
The mobile clinic Vaxi Taxi reached out to them about organizing the event. Thompson said it only took three days to make it official.
“When we have this opportunity, when they reached out to me, my first answer was like, absolutely, absolutely," Thompson said.
They will be administering more than 300 Pfizer vaccines. McBurney said walk-in appointments are available.