Mattie Rhodes to host two vaccination events





‘This new variant is very contagious’





Mattie Rhodes Center’s officials believe partnering with health agencies in the metro and offering COVID vaccination to area residents is the best way to keeping everyone healthy and safe.



BY JOE ARCE AND COREY CRABLE


By Joe Arce and Corey Crable Continuing its commitment to keeping the Hispanic community safe and healthy in Kansas City, the Mattie Rhodes Center (MRC) will host two COVID-19 vaccination events this month.


The first event will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 22, with the second taking place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sat., Jan. 29. No appointment is necessary, and anyone may come to the vaccination event at no cost, either to receive their first dose, their second dose, or to receive a booster shot.


Vaccines will be administered by the Jackson County Health Department at the Mattie Rhodes Center, 148 N. Topping Ave. in Kansas City, MO.


John Fierro, CEO of Mattie Rhodes, says that with the highly contagious Omicron variant sweeping through the metro area, the center continues to monitor the advice and suggestions of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


“What we’re hearing from the CDC is that while Omicron is running rampant, the severity of the illness won’t be as much to the vaccinated as opposed to those who aren’t vaccinated,” Fiero says, adding that in 2021, vaccination events at Mattie Rhodes saw more than 1,300 vaccines administered.


Paige Kincaid, Regional COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department, says that although the Omicron variant is not proving to be as dangerous as the Delta variant, minority communities are still likely to be disproportionately affected by its spread.


“That gap is closing, but it’s a question of who is vaccinated in your community. If you live in a community that has lower rates of vaccination, you’re going to be more vulnerable,” Kincaid says. “We are still seeing some minority groups who are being impacted. They might live in a community that has a harder time getting access to the vaccine because of shift work or childcare reasons or transportation issues.”


She cites another reason why COVID-19 might affect Hispanic communities at a greater rate.


“Another reason Hispanics might be harder hit is because of multi-generation households. That means grandkids are bringing the virus to the house, to Grandma,” Kincaid says. “It means that lots of people are getting sick at the same time. But as soon as everyone gets vaccinated, you really have so much better protection.”


Fierro knows the toll that COVID-19 can take on families – his nephew and godson, Freddie Jo Castro, died last year after a struggle with the illness. Castro, 23, was a young officer with the Overland Park Police Department.


“There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about him,” Fierro says.


Kincaid encourages those who have not yet been vaccinated to come to the events in order to protect themselves and those they love.


“This new variant is very contagious. The virus has had the opportunity to change over two years,” she says. “If one person in your household is sick with COVID, the rest of your household is assumed to be sick. That’s why we have so many cases right now.”


Those cases are placing a strain on hospitals – and it’s an unnecessary one, she adds.


“We’re at a point right now called Crisis Standard of Care,” Kincaid explains. “That means we have virtually no ICU beds available. We have so many people very sick with COVID occupying those hospital beds at this time, and 98 percent of them are unvaccinated people.”


Kincaid cautions that being vaccinated will not 100 percent assure your protection from the virus, but it will greatly decrease your chances of becoming infected and of suffering greatly from the illness.


“You may still get COVID,” Kincaid says. “Omicron is still very contagious, but hopefully, with your vaccination completion, you will be able to stay out of the hospital and be able to recover well.”


The spread of misinformation online is preventing more Americans from becoming vaccinated, says Kincaid, who encourages people to listen to information shared by reputable public health agencies such as the CDC.


“There has been lots of misinformation that has gone around about the vaccine,” she says. “One of the most concerning is that the vaccine may cause infertility or hurt a pregnant mother. None of that is true. … Social media is a terrible place to get your information.”


Kincaid says that only those who are severely immunocompromised, such as someone on cancer treatments, would benefit from having a fourth vaccine dose. But everyone can benefit from sticking to the two actions that would best protect them – getting vaccinated and wearing a face mask in public.


“We’re not quite at a place where we can go back to how our lives were in 2019. But to protect yourself, you can do two things,” Kincaid says. “The most important things – get vaccinated and mask up. If you’re going to go out, wear a mask and stay far away from other groups.”


Fierro says he is impressed with the success of his center’s vaccination events, and the formula for that success is simple.


“For many, healthcare benefits are very limited,” he says. “And what this pandemic has taught us, is that if you make immunizations available and you make it available in a language the public understands and you make it in a safe, comfortable community, people are going to come, and that’s what we’ve seen.”


Stability and consistency are key, too, he adds.


“For us, stability and consistency have been the driver. When you have issues of this magnitude that require reaching out to people of all colors and all languages, the tendency is to reach out to Latinos in a short amount of time and then move on,” Fiero says. “For me, it has been important to be stable and consistency in making these vaccines available in a neighborhood setting with people who speak the language and are culturally competent. That has been key in our ability to facilitate the number of vaccines that we have.”


Kincaid says that on her end, when public health organizations can pair with organizations like the Mattie Rhodes Center, the communities they serve will see the benefits.


“Being able to form these community partnerships means that beyond COVID-19, we’ll still be able to offer help to these communities,” she says. “These are important so we can get these communities protected.”


For more information, visit the Mattie Rhodes Center at www.mattierhodes.org and the Jackson County Health Department at www.jacohd.org.