In an effort to expand vaccination access to Turlock’s underserved communities, Westside Ministries is hosting a vaccine clinic this weekend with thousands of dollars in raffle prizes as incentive for those who receive their first dose.
Westside Ministries founder JoLynn DiGrazia said that while the nonprofit organization has held flu vaccine clinics before in the past, this will be their first COVID vaccine clinic in collaboration with Livingston Community Health. Participants will receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which is available for people age 12 and older.
DiGrazia felt that hosting a vaccine clinic on the Westside was important because of the high rate of COVID cases within the 95380 zip code so far during the pandemic, as well as Stanislaus County’s recent uptick in cases due to the Delta variant. A lack of transportation for many Westside residents has translated to a lack of access to vaccines, she said.
In the 95380 zip code, 37% of residents are fully vaccinated, while 49% have received one dose.
“So many of the people in our neighborhood do not own vehicles or have access to them, so healthcare in general is difficult,” DiGrazia said. “We hope that providing access will make a difference, because as of today, we know statistically that being vaccinated is the single thing that you can do to help your body fight the disease and slow it from taking your life.”
Another problem aside from access to the vaccine is the community’s fear of it, DiGrazia added. Westside Ministries employees and students have gone door to door in the nearby neighborhoods to provide information about the vaccine clinic to residents, but some have expressed an unwillingness to receive the shot.
“Many people in brown and black communities are skeptical of the government in general right now, and especially the vaccine,” DiGrazia said. “It’s very frustrating and very concerning.”
While vaccinated people can still contract COVID, the Centers for Disease Control reported that as of Aug. 9, just 0.004% of the 166 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated against the virus have been hospitalized or died from illness. According to data released by the California Department of Public Health on Tuesday, COVID cases among the unvaccinated are 600% higher than those among the vaccinated.
While 78.3% of Californians have now received at least one vaccine dose, 39% of Stanislaus County still remains unvaccinated.
“I'd like to see people get back the vaccine simply because we know that the rate of death among those who've been vaccinated even one time is significantly lower than if you contracted the disease and did not have a vaccine,” DiGrazia said. “I just love people and I want to see people get help, and I want to see people be able to fight this disease.”
While there haven’t been any big outbreaks among children at Westside Ministries, DiGrazia hopes to keep it that way. As of Tuesday, 1.6% of hospitalized COVID cases in Stanislaus County were below the age of 14.
Westside Ministries dance instructor Kylene Murphy is fully vaccinated and still contracted COVID at the end of July, along with the rest of her family. The virus hit her 12-year-old son the hardest of her three children, she said, and he suffered from a 102-degree fever for three days. She was also sick, making it hard to care for her children.
“It’s hard watching your kids when they’re sick and there’s not really anything you can do about it,” Murphy said.
She added that her experience with COVID although she was vaccinated reminded her of the importance of masks, and she wondered if her symptoms would have been worse without a vaccine.
“Everyone has their own personal right to do what they desire, but I think that at least for the respect of others, I think that masks are important — especially if you know you’ve been around someone who was exposed,” Murphy said.
Westside Ministries' vaccine clinic will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at 950 Columbia St. in Turlock. The clinic is open to everyone 12 years old and older, and participants are asked to bring a form of identification. Everyone will receive a food box and will be entered into a raffle for $50 and $25 gift cards, with about $2,000 total in prizes.