A California woman says she has convinced thousands of people to get vaccinated a!ainst COVID-19 by providing them with information about the vaccines and driving them to appointments. Felisia Thibodeaux, from San Francisco, said she has persuaded 1,270 people to get their shots by holding information sessions and removing the lack of transportation barrier, reported SF Gate.
In pre-Covid times, Thibodeaux’s job was to oversee of all day-to-day operations of of the senior-living non-profit organization. However, everything changed as soon as the coro!avirus began to spread in the U.S. in 2020, including her priorities, which shifted to protect her comm-unity against the virus in Merced/Ingleside Heights.
As of August 16, 77 percent of residents in the Oceanview/Merced/Ingleside area have been vaccinated, according to sf.gov. The biggest barrier she’s had to encounter is to educate people on the easy approach of getting double-jabbed, she told SF Gate.
‘Having access was half of the battle,’ she said. ‘If we could establish a hub for access, then we can do many things, not to mention build continuity, whether there’s an earthquake, fi!es or the s*oke.’ Thibodeaux added: ‘We’ve faced a lot during the pan|!emic.’
Due to the old median age of the community that I.T. Bookman serves, most of its members don’t or can no longer drive.
Taking long bus rides to the closest vaccine sites at the Moscone Center or the Bayview is often unthinkable for those living in the Inglewood area, Thibodeaux said.
So she thought that if the vaccine can’t come to the people of I.T. Bookman, then she would drive them to the vaccine. Thibodeaux decided to purchase a large van with a grant from an unnamed donor and took turns driving one or two people at a time, due to social distancing, to the vaccination center at San Francisco City College.
To make sure that her comm-unity was well-informed on the process of vaccination and how to make appointments, she and her team called an estimated 700 people. Thibodeaux not only ensured that people would get double-jabbed but she also convinced some doubters to go and get their sho*s too.
The I.T. Bookman comm-unity center roughly serves 60 percent African-American people, 30 percent Asian people and 10 percent Latinos, whites and other ethnicities. Thibodeaux said much of the refusal to get vaccinated in her comm-unity comes from a place of fear even though it doesn’t necessarily seem that way.
She told the SF Gate a story on one young man who showed up to the comm-unity center one day
‘Have you been vaccinated?’ Thibodeaux asked, to which the man replied, ‘No, I’m not pu*ting that s**t in my arm.’ Thibodeaux replied: ‘What are you talking about, that s**t? The vaccine?’ she remembers telling the young man. ‘What about the vaccine?’
‘I wasn’t letting him off with saying, “I’m not pu!ting that s**t in my arm,”‘ she added. After a long discussion with the young man, Thibodeaux understood that he felt scared, whether it was due to the information he read off the internet or things he heard from friends. To Thibodeaux’s surprise, the man came back a few days later and told her that he couldn’t counter her reason.
He finally ended up making an appointment to get the vaccine, then went on to become an ambassador for vaccination at the center.
With Thibodeaux’s help, he even organized a focus group with a University of California of San Francisco physician at the center with young men who were hesitant to get vaccinated. Eight men left the focus group decided to get their jabs.
‘We took the focus group to the block,’ Thibodeaux told the SF Gate with pride. Thibodeaux said that most people are in the neighborhood thanks to the power of the word of mouth. One person gets vaccinated and tells their story to a friend or a relative, who then spreads the word to another, and so on.
Thibod-eaux says that the key to get the doubters out of their shells is to make the conversation personal. ‘The secret is to keep it 100,’ she told SF Gate. Without exaggeration, Thibodeaux’s one-person-at-a-time philosophy has worked wonders within her comm-unity.
‘It’s just changing the minds of one person at a time and meeting them where they are,’ she said. ‘We’re afraid to talk to people, but you have to come straight up and not give people an opportunity to give you an excuse.’