Newark Community Leaders Reach Out to Disabled with Vaccination Clinic

Newark resident Juan Palacios receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic hosted for the disabled community.

NEWARK, NJ — The city of Newark is taking its first steps to vaccinate nearly 34,000 people with disabilities after community leaders hosted a pop-up clinic for residents with visual, hearing or physical impairments. 

Although officials may have a long way to go before a majority of the city’s disabled residents are fully vaccinated, more than 50 registered residents walked through the doors of Chosen Generation Ministries on Friday morning to receive a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Among the dozens of people who came in to roll up their sleeves and receive a shot, one resident, Terrence Coleman, said that he is looking forward to traveling this fall. 

“It feels good [to get the vaccine],” Coleman said. “I can’t wait to go out and travel more.” 

The clinic was held in partnership with the city, Eyes Like Mine Inc. and the Deaf Advocacy Group to reach a part of the community they felt was susceptible to being overlooked in ongoing vaccination efforts. 

While the city has tried to reach out to several groups of underserved residents such as hosting pop-up clinics for the homeless, Newark Department of Health and Community Wellness Director Mark Wade said that more needs to be done to reach all communities. 

“We wanted to make sure that we made the appropriate accommodations and provide a vaccine to this portion [of the community] who’s treasured,” Wade told TAPinto Newark. “We are going to continue this to make sure we get as many of our differently-abled population the same opportunities. As many times as we need to come out, we will come out to do this.” 

On-site, the clinic featured a staff prepared with nurses and specialized professionals to serve its residents with almost any disability. As individuals made their way around the room American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters helped patients communicate with their nurse while others helped guide visually impaired patients to their seats. 

Also on hand to help out, one of the first faces patients were greeted by at the door was that of Brian Butterfield, a deaf and visually impaired resident from Bloomfield. 

Fully vaccinated since January, Butterfield has been a consistent volunteer at several pop-up sites for the disabled over the last three months, helping guide individuals into the room. 

“I felt it was important to help out and inspire them to get vaccinated,” Butterfield said with assistance from his ASL interpreter. “I think it’s important [they get the vaccine] so that they can pay it forward.” 

Alongside providing more access to the vaccine for the disabled, Eyes Like Mine Founder and Newark native Krystle Allen said that vaccinations will help combat mental health issues the community has battled with as a result of the pandemic. 

Before the onset of the pandemic, Allen explained that people with disabilities often experience several forms of discrimination from society. Once quarantine and lockdowns were implemented as a result of the virus, she said that this only exacerbated the issue.

“Social isolation and mental health [issues] have only been elevated,” Allen said. “As more people get vaccinated and follow our lead, we can get back to more socialization in person. This opportunity here opens the gateway to being socially engaged again.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-05-08 04:44:32 -0700