This Latina Health Care Worker Is 'So Happy' to Promote Vaccines in Her Area: 'We Did This for My Community'

PEOPLE's "Why I'm Getting Vaccinated" campaign hopes to fight vaccine misinformation and encourage people to get the shot as part of the battle against COVID-19. Noteworthy names and everyday people alike will share their powerful, personal reasons for getting vaccinated.

Photo: Puentes de Salud team

Philadelphia's Puentes de Salud—Spanish for Bridges of Health—is a grant-funded nonprofit organization that provides healthcare and education for the Latinx immigrant community. Co-founder Dr. Steven Larson has worked in both developing countries and underserved communities in Pennsylvania, and says that building trust with the community is essential to treating patients. One of the ways the organization does this is with the help of promotoras, or community health workers. Since the pandemic emerged, a team of promotoras have helped boost vaccination efforts in their own communities. One of Puentes de Salud's promotoras, Beberlyn De Paz López, has spent months educating and dispelling misinformation about the vaccines, ultimately helping hundreds of her neighbors get vaccinated. This is her story, as told to PEOPLE.

Myths and misinformation have been spreading [in our community] since the development of the vaccine — powerful and damaging myths, like "vaccines are injecting you with a microchip so the government can track you." But one problem is language access: You can technically go into a pharmacy to get vaccinated, but you won't be able to ask questions because language can create a big barrier.

So I designed a survey to take out into the community, talk to people about their reaction to the vaccine, and answer their questions. We started by looking at what people's doubts were, trying to understand people's questions, so that we could answer them. Our team of promotoras asked [our clinic contact, Health & Wellness Director Leah Reisman] to help us make fliers that spoke back to those specific questions and concerns, and to help answer people's questions with correct information.

I also talked to folks a lot about my personal experience getting vaccinated when I was five months pregnant. My baby was born healthy, and so people had lots of questions for me about that experience.

We set up a clinic in [my neighborhood], specifically to expand access for this community. I led the clinic there, and promoted it all over; I went to restaurants, event halls, laundromats, and it worked. We vaccinated 155 people, mostly first doses. I felt so happy. We did this for my community.

We did a clinic in a park in southwest Philly, in partnership with City ID, which we knew would be a big draw for people. Lots of people came out for the ID and it was a big long line for people waiting to sign up for the ID, but nobody was on the vaccine side.

With my fliers, I went up to people and started talking: "Hello, welcome, nice to see you. Would you like to get vaccinated?" And I told them about my experience and my family's experience, that it was safe, that everything was fine when I got vaccinated.

I pointed out to them, you got vaccinated as a child; maybe if you didn't get vaccinated as a child, then you would have gotten sick. You should really take advantage of this, we are here for you. We have the one dose vaccine if you don't want to come back for the second dose.

I pointed out to them, "You're standing in a big line here, I'll stand in line for you. You can get vaccinated, and then you can come back and get in the line."

We convinced a lot of people that day, some people for first doses, some people who were missing their second dose and also some boosters.


When we did a second dose clinic after the first really successful one, I went to canvas the area nearby, to bring people in who might have the opportunity to get vaccinated that same day, close by. I went to a laundromat and spoke to a man who said, I really want to get my booster, but I got my first doses in my home country and the brand that they got, they don't have it here.

And so I called [the office] to ask if we can give him a Pfizer vaccine as a booster, and was told yes. And so he was able to come get vaccinated that day, as well as his son and his wife who had not gotten vaccinated. Just having the opportunity to answer people's questions, to provide people with high quality information and immediate connections to where they can get vaccinated in their language, in their community, is really important.

[That's true for kids too, because] any doubts start with the parents. I asked parents: You got vaccinated, right? Did the vaccine kill you? Did it make you sick? Okay, well, then, why is it different for your kids?

I explained to them, we're getting vaccinated so we can go back to our daily lives from before the pandemic. That's a really important thing for kids as well.

One child who came in was originally unsure about getting vaccinated, but he left extremely happy. He came back for his second dose and then said, "Well, now I can go to the park!"

Another child came in with his mom. They were both getting vaccinated—mom for the first time, too. The kid was just crying. We vaccinated him as quickly as we could, and afterwards, he was like, Oh, that was it. That didn't hurt at all. And when he came back for a second dose, he was looking for me, saying, She's a good nurse.

That also speaks to the importance of having Latino health care professionals giving care to the community. People who look like them, speak like them, who share that cultural context—who can really make it a warm experience.

I have two children in Guatemala, a 13-year-old and an 8-year-old. The younger one can't go to school yet because he's not eligible for being vaccinated in Guatemala.

My son said, "Could I just come and get vaccinated and then go back, so I can go to school, so I don't have to be in digital school on the computer anymore?" And so, you know, that's another way to really talk to parents about the advantages of being in this country and the opportunities that we have.

I tell parents: Our kids here have the opportunity to get vaccinated so that they can go to school and they can have their regular lives. Other kids in our home countries don't have that opportunity.

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