IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Healthcare Network, along with local government agencies, held a walk-up COVID vaccination clinic in Immokalee Tuesday.
“We really worked hard with the Department of Health and other folks to make sure that when we’re bringing the vaccine to Immokalee, we’re really taking care of the people in Immokalee,” said Trey Fletcher with Healthcare Network.
Together they vaccinated hundreds in Immokalee, one of the most underserved communities in Collier County.
“We were directly reaching out to folks who are Immokalee residents, who have ties to Immokalee, who are part of this community, and that’s really how we did it, we took a very personal approach to ensure we’re getting to those folks,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher says this approach helped them target people who would otherwise not be able to sign-up for a vaccine or have the means to travel out of the town.
They ensured people 65 and older knew the vaccine clinic was arriving and helped residents make appointments.
“You sometimes end up with folks that have limitations with their ability to operate a computer or access to internet,” said Fletcher.
The group giving the shots also took into account the language barrier families in the farm working community often face.
“We have native speakers, so we want to make sure we have folks that can communicate in their own language so that they can understand and be comfortable,” said Fletcher.
One of the roughly 500 people to get inoculated Tuesday was Guadalupe Erebia, who's well aware of how the virus has torn through migrant communities.
“I felt relief, relief because we’ve suffered so much with this virus, and so many people have died,” said Erebia.
After living in uncertainty for the past ten months, like many, Erebia hopes the vaccine is a step towards stability.
“I’m praying to God that that happens,” said Erebia.
Lupe Gonzalo with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers says while she's relieved seniors in Immokalee are receiving the vaccine, she hopes farmworkers themselves will be next in line.
“A lot of the workers have to go out and work; they can’t work from home, so it’s crucial that they also receive the vaccine,” said Gonzalo.
The state has not announced a timeline on when farmworkers will be able to receive the vaccine.
Healthcare Network says they will hold more vaccine clinics in collaboration with the DOH in Collier County as they get more supply.
"We always have to say these things with a caveat because we haven’t received confirmation on when we’ll get our next shipment in, but as long as this organization is getting vaccines, we’re going to make sure we’re taking care of our community," said Fletcher.