Community health centers begin COVID-19 vaccine distribution |

Community health centers begin COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Brandi Powell
Updated: January 20, 2021 06:14 PM
Created: January 20, 2021 04:59 PM

On Wednesday, one of Minnesota's 17 community health centers started distributing its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was at United Family Medicine in St. Paul showing the push to encourage those 65 and older, including people of color, to get vaccinated.

Community health centers said they have two key assets with vaccine rollout. First, long-standing trust that's been built with their patients. Second, distribution sites like this one all across Minnesota.

"In leading this community health center every day, I think about my own personal experiences with the health care system as a woman of color," Ann Nyakundi, CEO of United Family Medicine, said.

Nyakundi is helping lead the way in getting her COVID-19 vaccine at its newly created vaccine distribution clinic in St. Paul.

Nyakundi said community health clinics serve nearly 200,000 low-income Minnesotans throughout the state.

"We don't consider 'the community' the other," Nyakundi said. "They're us. They're our family."

About half of the patients served at United Family Medicine are people of color.

"These are populations whose lives have been negatively impacted throughout generations ... A short conversation with someone that you trust can get you to motivate you to take action," Nyakundi said.

Dr. Xoua Thao, a family doctor at United Family Medicine, is also taking action by getting his first vaccination on-camera. Dr. Thao said he hopes doing so will speak to the Hmong community and save lives.

"COVID has impacted my community very heavily ... with the demographic changes and the burdens of disease that comes along with the language barrier, the cultural barriers and that lack of access to quality care," Dr. Thao said.

The clinic just received 600 doses that it will give out over the course of a week.

Nyakundi said her team has already requested more vaccines.

"We are trying to motivate people to take action to save their lives, and so having trust is really important," Nyakundi said.

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