African health leaders offer incentives, encourage immigrants to get vaccinated in south King County

The vaccine clinic was more focused on community engagement and addressing basic health needs, which organizers say is a better way to reach the immigrant community.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — It was a busy Saturday morning in Federal Way where several community groups worked together to try and get more people vaccinated. 

The latest Health Department statistics continue to show vaccination rates are lagging for members of the Black and Hispanic communities.

The African Leaders Health Board put together the event taking into account other health issues that likely went ignored in immigrant communities during the pandemic.  

“It’s a holistic package of services that need to be provided starting with food, mammogram, blood pressure all type of basic services that our people didn’t get,” Ahoua Kone explained.  

Organizers said they came up with some unique incentives to draw people to the event, hopefully making them more comfortable with getting the shot. 

“We are using incentives giveaways, fan, cooking utensils cash money to really bring people out to get the vaccine,” Kwadwo Oware explained.

Organizers of Saturday’s pop-up clinic gave fresh produce to everyone who came to encourage healthy eating alongside the other screenings. 

“When people come they feel happy and welcome and it’s not just, get in and get the shot and move out. It’s more of a community engagement,” Oware said. 

Kone would like to see future events include more services for mental health needs. 

Farmer David Bulindah brought the organic produce, and he also shared his own experience with COVID-19 to encourage people to get the shot. 

“I am a COVID survivor, I survived last year,” he explained.  “I had [coronavirus] and I lost my voice, I couldn’t talk, I can be a good advocate and say guess what; you don’t want to get there.”

Uber driver Peter Kuel recruited two friends to come Saturday and has been consistently working to convince others to get vaccinated.  

“People who are hesitant, we have to talk to them I did it, he did it and many people are community members, they got it, why not you? Why don’t you do it?” Kuel said.

About 60 people were vaccinated at Saturday’s event and they are planning to do a similar event in Renton in the future.