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Clinic Is a Shot in the Arm for the Community

The Hansjörg Wyss Wellness Center Houses COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic

Sharla Thomas knows that the key to getting back to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic is vaccination. Lauren Posego agrees, stressing the importance of “access and education” in getting shots into the arms of underserved communities.

Both Thomas, a community health worker with the Clinical Experience Program at Jefferson, and Posego, a second-year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, volunteer twice a week at the vaccination clinic at the Hansjörg Wyss Wellness Center in South Philadelphia.

The clinic, located in the Bok Building, is open Mondays and Tuesdays, vaccinating between 70 and 130 people each day. The shots are free to the largely immigrant population of the community. Jefferson also hosts pop-up clinics throughout the city.

“I know that everybody wants to continue to live their lives like they were a couple of years ago—prior to the pandemic,” Thomas says. “The vaccine is going to make our community stronger so we can get back to normalcy.”

In the South Philadelphia area that is served by the Wyss Wellness Center, getting the word out about the free shots and combatting misinformation is vital to the success of the program.

“The clinic is important in communities where there is some vaccine hesitancy,” says Thomas, whose responsibilities at the clinic range from registration and scheduling new and follow-up appointments to post-shot observation and connecting patients with social resources they might require.

When a patient comes in and expresses some uncertainty or fear, it’s up to the staff to put their minds at ease.

“I always ask them: ‘Can you explain to me a little bit about why you’re scared?’” Thomas says. Most of the hesitancy centers on how quickly the vaccine seems to have been developed, and whether they will be injected with a live virus. She explains that the SARS vaccine has been in development for many years, and the COVID-19 vaccine is a product of that research. She also puts their mind at ease by letting them know they are not getting a live virus in the vaccine.

Most of the patients are really excited to get vaccinated. Some people have questions; we’re able to catch and correct misinformation, and that’s really important.

Lauren Posego Medical Student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College

Posego says that it’s very rare that anyone walks out without getting the vaccine.

“Most of the patients are really excited to get vaccinated,” she says. “Some people have questions; we’re able to catch and correct misinformation, and that’s really important.”

The center also has COVID-19 fact sheets printed in 10 languages. While there are translators available at the center, a four-page leaflet allows people to bring the information home to their families and friends to help others learn about the virus, the vaccine, and why it’s so necessary to get the shot.

The clinic operates from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday, and accepts walk-ins. When the clinic is “slow,” the volunteers hit the bricks in the neighborhoods.

“We just walk around and ask people, ‘Have you gotten the vaccine? Are you interested?’” Posego says. They’ve been able to drum up some interest that way, and often people go home and get family members to bring to the clinic with them.

Thomas says now that the vaccine has been approved for the 12-18 age group, the clinic is seeing more parents bringing in their children.

“My own 14-year-old daughter, Jai’la, was eager to get the vaccine,” Thomas says, noting that it gives her hope that we can someday soon put the pandemic behind us.

“At some point in our lives—and we know it won’t be immediately—but at some point we all will get back to some form of normalcy,” she says.