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Casa Latina vaccine clinic aims to reach Hispanic community

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 11:14 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Casa Latina is working to help local Latinos get the COVID-19 vaccine by providing information in Spanish and helping with interpretation. Now the non-profit organization is going further.

They are hosting a small community vaccination clinic, offering 600 Pfizer doses in an event specifically catered to Roanoke’s Hispanic community.

Roanoke resident Jojo Friday walked into Casa Latina Friday afternoon. She left with a bandage that will change the way she sees her family.

“It means that I can hug my family,” Friday said. “It means being able to spend time and see my grandmother, who I have not been able to see since this has happened.”

Born in Belize, Friday has lived in Roanoke for 10 years. She feels lucky to live in a place where the COVID-19 vaccine is available to her.

“The opportunity to get actually vaccinated in other countries is slim to none,” she said.

Friday’s mother is a dual citizen who lives in Belize, but she traveled to Roanoke to also get vaccinated.

“Not only did my mom come up for the opportunity to get vaccinated, but I know of several different friends who are also coming from other third world countries and having their family come over for this opportunity,” Friday said.

Her native language is Garifuna, an African dialect, so Friday knows well the importance of having the city’s interpreter on hand at the clinic to help people who speak Spanish.

“To have someone with a friendly face that speaks your language, the information is received differently,” she said.

WDBJ7 was not allowed to film inside the clinic, because organizers want to maintain trust with the community members going in to get their shots.

Casa Latina President Kris Tilley-Lubbs says there has been a great deal of outreach effort to help get people through clinic doors.

“We have had a strike force working to contact people who we know want the vaccine,” Tilley-Lubbs said. “While we’ve been standing here we’ve seen people walking in from the neighborhood. And that can’t happen at the Berglund or at the Salem Center.”

City Council member Vivien Sanchez Jones agrees it is crucial for members of the Hispanic community to get vaccinated. Latinos have been disproportionately impacted in Virginia, and Sanchez-Jones says she has seen evidence of that in our region.

“A lot of people being impacted by not only the long effects of the long haulers, but also the loss of employment. And that has been a great deal,” she said.

There are now signs in Spanish in the neighborhood around Casa Latina that aim to get the local Latino community out to vaccination clinics.

About 140 doses were administered during Friday’s portion of the clinic. Another 300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are available Saturday.

“It’s coming from a source that’s trusted in the community,” Friday said.

Friday feels she has now taken the first step to once again be able to put her family first.

“We’ve missed birthdays, Christmas, Easter, all because of this,” she said. “So I think we’re going to create a new holiday, that’s like all holidays in one day!”

Only about 50 people have registered for Saturday’s clinic, so there are still hundreds of doses available.

It will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Casa Latina. It is located just off of Williamson Road at 3110 Pioneer Rd NW, Roanoke, VA 24012.

Those without a Virginia ID can bring whatever identification they do have.

You can register for the clinic by contacting the Virginia Department of Health at 804-892-4060, or Casa Latina at 540-579-2276.

WDBJ7 has more information about this event on Facebook in our nightly Spanish language broadcast. You can watch it here.

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