By Karla Jimenez-Magdaleno and Ben Stocking
King County has reached a milestone: One million COVID-19 vaccines delivered.
One year ago, that seemed impossible. But vaccines were developed in record time – not just one, not just two, but three.
A wide array of community and faith-based organizations have played a crucial role in delivering those vaccines. We spoke with some of those partners to reflect on what it means to reach one million shots.
“It is a great milestone because it means more lives are saved,” said Alan Lai, a community navigator and translator for the Chinese community.
King County community organizations have worked to connect vaccines to people who face challenges making appointments due to barriers related to internet access, language access, and past experiences of racism in the medical system.
They have organized community vaccination events. They have helped register people for vaccinations and arranged transportation for those who didn’t have it.
And consistently, they have placed equity first, reaching out to groups that have faced the heaviest burden from COVID-19: immigrants, refugees, African Americans, Black communities, Latinx communities, Indigenous people and Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other people of color.
“As an immigrant and person of color, our communities have been most impacted by this pandemic,” reflected Mohamed Khalif, who is part of the community translator review team for Public Health. “We live in multigenerational households with many essential workers. A lot of us cannot afford to social distance or work from home. Vaccination matters because it’s the difference between dying or surviving COVID.”
“We strongly believe in prioritizing communities who are most vulnerable,” said Anna Solero of Villa Comunitaria, which supports King County’s Latinx community.
Supporting frontline workers and those supplying our food
Since the pandemic began, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union 21 has been working night and day to protect its members, most of whom work on the front lines of the pandemic.
“When the rest of the world was told to go home and help flatten the curve, our folks kept showing up for all of us,” said Samantha Grad, the union’s political and legislative director.
Many workers paid a price for their dedication, said Anna Minard, the UFCW21 communications director. Some got sick with COVID-19 and spread the virus to family members who died.
“The emotional toll has been great,” Grad said. “We’re committed to making sure that everybody feels safe and protected.”
“As an immigrant and person of color, our communities have been most impacted by this pandemic. We work in multigenerational households with many essential workers. A lot of us cannot afford to social distance or work from home. Vaccination matters because it’s the difference between dying or surviving COVID.”Mohamed Khalif, community translator and reviewer for Public Health
In January and February 2021, UFCW21 helped the City of Seattle organize two vaccination clinics for older grocery workers and people who live in multigenerational homes. Those events were held at a Georgetown union hall.
In the fields and orchards across Washington State, farmworkers continued throughout the pandemic to plant and harvest the crops that UFCW21 members process and deliver.
Protecting them is a priority of Sound Sustainable Farms, an organization that helps agricultural workers in unincorporated Redmond gain access to vaccines.
“Agricultural workers are the superheroes of the pandemic,” said Karen Dawson, the director of public affairs for the group.
Her organization focused on ensuring that people of color and people who don’t speak English as a first language got vaccinated early.
“We were reaching people in real time, in the field or on their farm,” she said.
Providing reassurance to communities
Many community organizations worked to reassure people who feared the vaccines were unsafe, even though they have been extensively tested. Online misinformation about vaccine safety has been rampant.
Reaching people with such concerns requires trust, said Janice Deguchi, executive director of Neighborhood House, which supports immigrants and refugees, many of whom speak limited English.
“Our staff speaks over 45 languages,” Deguchi said. “As a trusted messenger, we can combat rumors with accurate information.”
The Ethiopian Community in Seattle has hosted three community clinic events, providing vaccines to over 600 people. “People are grateful for the opportunity and the support they received in a place that speaks their language and answers their questions,” said Tsega Desta, a program manager for the organization.
“Through the workshops we provided in Amharic about the safety of the vaccines, we were able to convince the older generation and demystify any myths they have. As a result, they came to be vaccinated in numbers,” Desta reflected.
Close community ties are the key to successful outreach, agreed Dr. Anisa Ibrahim of the Somali Health Board of King County.
“Trust is the keystone to strong relationships, and it is earned,” Dr. Ibrahim said.
More than 1 million more to go
Even though we have delivered one million doses, there are still many people who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. More than 2 million people live in King County and much work remains to be done.
Among those determined to make sure everyone gets a shot is a group of 30 eighth-grade students at Odom Middle School. As part of an initiative called Worth a Shot, they have created a COVID-19 resource booklet and translated it into 15 languages.
“We’re all in this together and none of us can be safe until all of us can be safe,” said Mehr Grewal, a member of the Odom group.
“It’s so amazing that we’ve reached this major milestone of 1 million doses,” Grewal said. “Every shot is another step towards normal. Every shot matters.”
As Alan Lai reflected on this milestone: “One year ago, we were the first state with COVID-19 and the spotlight was on us. With our determination and resilience, we are now one of the safest in the nation.”
Originally published April 7, 2021.
Edited on 4/7/21 to clarify a quote from Neighborhood House.
Public Health thanks all community organizations coming together to help us and our healthcare system partners reach one million vaccinations in King County. We could not do this without you.
- African American Elders Program – Catholic Community Services
- African American Reach and Teach Health Ministry
- Alimentando el Pueblo
- Alzheimer’s Association
- Asian Counseling and Referral Service
- Auburn Senior Activity Center
- Ballard NW Senior Center
- Blaine Memorial UMC
- Central Area Senior Center
- Centro Cultural Mexicano
- Cham Refugees Community
- Child Care Aware of Washington
- Child Care Resources
- Childhaven (formerly RAYS)
- Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)
- Colectiva Legal del Pueblo
- Congolese Integration Network
- Crisis Connections
- Deaf-Blind Service Center
- Delta Sima Theta Sorority
- Des Moines/Normandy Park Senior Center
- Eastside for All
- El Centro de La Raza
- El Comité
- Encompass NW
- Enumclaw Senior Center
- Federal Way Black Collective
- Federal Way School District
- Federal Way Senior Center
- First African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Generations Aging with Pride Senior Center (GenPRIDE)
- Greenwood Senior Center
- Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center
- Holy Temple Evangelistic Center in Skyway
- Horn of Africa Services
- Immaculate Conception Church
- India Association of Western Washington
- International Drop-In Center (IDIC) Filipino Senior and Family Services
- Issaquah Senior Center
- Jewish Family Services
- Rainier Valley Leadership Academy
- Schools Out Washington
- Seattle / King County Coalition on Homelessness
- Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority
- Senior Center of West Seattle
- Shoreline/Lake Forest Park Senior Center
- Sno-Valley Senior Center
- Somali Health Board
- Sound Sustainable Farms
- South East Seattle Senior Center
- South Park Senior Center
- Southwest Youth and Family Services
- Tabernacle Baptist Church
- The Alliance of People with Disabilities
- The Arc of King County
- King County Promotores Network (KCPN)
- Kent Senior Activity Center
- Khmer Community of Seattle and King County
- Kin On
- King County Early Learning Association
- Korean Women’s Association
- Lake Burien Presbyterian Church
- Lake City – Northgate Senior Project
- Lake City Collective
- Living Well Kent
- Mary Mahoney Nurses Association
- Medhane Alem Eritrean Orthodox Church
- Mount Si Senior Center
- Mount Zion Health Ministry, Mount Zion Baptist Church
- Muslim Community and Neighborhood Association
- Neighborhood House
- New Beginnings Church in Kent
- Northshore Senior Center
- Open Doors for Multicultural Health
- Pacific Islander Community Association of Washington
- Pacific Islander Health Board of Washington
- Pacific Senior Center
- Para los Niños
- Peter Kirk Community Center – Kirkland
- Pike Market Senior Center
- United Indians of All Tribes Foundation’s Native Elders Program
- UTOPIA Seattle
- Villa Comunitaria
- Voices of Tomorrow
- Walker Chapel AME Church
- Wallingford Community Senior Center
- West Seattle Neighborhood House
- Western Washington National Association of Hispanic Nurses
- White Center Community Development Association
- World Relief Seattle
- YMCA of Greater Seattle
- Solid Ground
- Hillside Church
- Immaculate Conception
- Entre Hermanos
- Ethiopian Community in Seattle
- Lucy Steve
- Casa Latina
- Latino Community Fund
- El Comité
- Tammy Dang
- Antonio Flores Quin
- Mercedes Cordova-Hakim, KCPN
- Wilbor Guerrero
- Gloria Ramirez
- Emma Maceda
- Victoria Navarro
- Mohammed Akmoosh
- Lalita Uppala
- Jose Conejo
- Mother Africa
- Mohammed H Mohammed
- Cecilia Heine
- Alan Lai
- Consejo Counseling & Referral Service
- Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center
- Beverly Park Baptist Church
- Othello Station Pharmacy
- disAbility Pride
- Center for Multicultural Health
- Black Nurses Rock
- Aging and Disability Services