Ash Wednesday normally is a busy day at Catholic churches, including Sagrada Familia Parish on Cleveland’s West Side. Many parishioners attended midday Mass and received ashes.
But for some, there was another important event that day: the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.
Father Francisco Garnica, CSJ, Sagrada Familia administrator, said the parish partnered with Neighborhood Family Practice for the three-hour pop-up clinic. Two hundred people – many parishioners -- received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Feb. 17. They will return on March 17 for the second injection.
Dr. Chad Garven of NFP said they also collaborated with another Hispanic church, Aviva Nazarene, and the Hispanic Roundtable to make the vaccine available to people in the Hispanic community who meet the criteria. The vaccine was supplied by the Ohio Department of Health.
Hispanic communities have experienced a disproportionately higher burden of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, even when compared to Black communities, making effective vaccine administration even more essential, said Garven, NFP associate medical director.
He said there are three reasons why clinics like this one are so important:
- COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color.
- The estimated age-adjusted COVID-19 mortality rate for Hispanic Americans is 2.5 times higher than for white Americans.
- Black and Hispanic Americans are at heightened clinical health risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.
According to NFP staff members, the clinic was organized in about eight days – as soon as they learned ODH could supply the vaccine. Garven said it made sense to use Sagrada Familia as a vaccination site since the parish previously hosted a COVID testing site.
Father Garnica said the parish helped to push out news of the vaccination clinic. Appointments, which were scheduled in advance with seven people every five minutes, were snapped up quickly, Garven said. There were eight vaccination spots staffed by medical professionals including medical assistants, nurse practitioners and doctors.
Signs in both English and Spanish directed those coming for their vaccinations to the side doors of the church, where they waited – wearing face masks and observing social distancing – to be called forward to check in and be directed to their assigned vaccination table in the parish gym/hall. Once at the table, they rolled up their sleeves, a medical professional used an alcohol swab to clean the injection site, administered the vaccine and directed the person to a table for follow-up information.
Bilingual volunteers were on hand to ensure that those being vaccinated understood the procedure and the need to return for the second injection. They also could receive information in English and Spanish about services offered by NFP at its six nearby locations and a sticker indicating they had been vaccinated.
After about a 15-minute wait to ensure there were no adverse reactions to the vaccine, people could leave through the back door.
Among those receiving the first dose of the vaccine on Feb. 17 was Father Rob Reidy, the longtime pastor of Sagrada Familia, who moved to a new assignment in late December 2020.
Father Garnica said the event ran very smoothly. He’s hoping Sagrada Familia can collaborate with NFP for another vaccination clinic – if NFP can obtain more vaccine.
Garven said it made sense to work with Sagrada Familia because many parishioners are NFP patients.
“And sometimes they listen to their priest more than their doctor,” he quipped.