Fralin professor, ‘COVID Crushers’ help 600 Hispanic community members get COVID vaccine

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 5:18 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In the lab, or in the community, Dr. Carla Finkielstein is on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

“The best way to deal with this pandemic is doing this kind of dual approach,” said Finkielstein.

When she’s not running the COVID testing lab at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, she’s working to help hundreds of Latinos and Latinas overcome vaccine hesitancy.

“We managed to vaccinate a lot of people that probably, under normal circumstances, they might not do it,” said Finkielstein.

She and her team of 21 other “COVID Crushers” work nearly around the clock to help Hispanic community members throughout the New River Valley better understand the way the COVID vaccine works and its benefits.

“A lot of them don’t speak English, a lot of them have literacy issues, so we help them understand the information and have a little bit more trust,” said Fernanda Gutierrez Matos, a Virginia Tech masters of public health student.

To do that, Finkielstein and her team of Virginia Tech masters of public health students go to places like churches, restaurants, and construction sites, speak to people in their native language, answer questions, hand out easy-to-understand brochures, and get people signed up for appointments.

They’ve even hosted five of their own clinics, in partnership with VDH, where all of the vaccinators spoke Spanish.

In total, they’ve helped 600 Spanish speakers get vaccinated.

“The fact that the Latino community feels good enough to trust us is a privilege that I think we’d be silly not to maximize and to invite them more into the conversation,” Chloe Loving, a Virginia Tech masters of public health student.

The “COVID Crushers” are set to hold another clinic Saturday, May 8 at 202 8th Street in Radford.

Soon, they hope to hold mobile clinics in more remote locations.

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