Updated at 10:46 a.m.
Vaccination skepticism has been high in the Sacramento region. A poll from ValleyVision conducted in conjunction with CapRadio in March found that of respondents who haven’t been inoculated against COVID-19, 39% said they would probably not or definitely not get the vaccine. Skepticism was most often caused by concerns about possible side effects and the speed at which the vaccines were developed.
The Shifa Vaccination Clinic, staffed by University of California, Davis medical students and undergraduates, is attempting to allay those concerns through a culturally competent vaccination experience. There are translators and scribes at the clinic for those who don’t speak English or for whom English is not their first language, according to co-director Khadija Houda Soufi.
“We just want to make it feel like being at the clinic is like coming to a place that’s familiar to them,” Soufi said.
An April 2021 report from the Office of Health Equity in the state’s public health department found that practices like culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach, mindfulness and traditional healing are crucial to bettering the healthcare experiences of non-white communities. But the report also notes that these practices may or may not be recognized as legitimate health care in Western medicine.
Monika Lee, communications director for the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said that such practices are important because they recognize the needs of communities impacted by racism, health access inequities and generational trauma.
“I think those are the sort of things that we’re talking about when people’s experiences and culture are being valued,” she said. “We know that many of the community groups we work with have ways of healing that we think should be valued, recognized, funded and integrated into medical systems that focus on valuing culture and people’s identities.”
During Ramadan, Soufi said that the clinic talked with Muslim patients worried about getting the vaccine because of its potential effects on their fasting.
“We did a lot of passing out information and explained how to manage their side effects if they were fasting and what they can do best to address that,” she explained.
The clinic also has a private vaccination area for women who are uncomfortable exposing skin.
Soufi also said they worked with Sacramento County to ensure that undocumented immigrants could get vaccinated without putting themselves at risk for legal trouble.
In California, people do not need a state-issued ID or insurance to receive the vaccine, nor should vaccinators ask about immigration or citizenship status. But rollout of that policy has been unevenly implemented, with some vaccination sites having asked people for their Social Security numbers and others mistakenly turning away people because of citizenship status, resulting in continued vaccine hesitance.
“We’re able to use anything from just a photo ID with your name and location to anything with just your name and age,” she said. “I think that really opened up the door for a lot of people to come and be able to get the vaccine, especially those who are hesitant about giving out their information more comfortable.”
The clinic is also staffed by volunteers from other student-run clinics at UC Davis, including Imani Clinic, which largely serves the Black community, and Clinica Tepati, which primarily serves Latino immigrants in the area. Collaboration has helped the clinic target a broader range of marginalized groups in the Sacramento area, Soufi said.
While vaccine hesitancy has been a problem in marginalized communities, Soufi said one reason that people in those communities aren’t getting vaccinated is because there isn’t outreach to those areas.
Their clinic has.
“We’ve done a lot of emailing community organizations, telling them we have access to vaccines and they’ve reached out to their members to bring them in,” Soufi said. “We’ve started going through different locations, like new mosques, because a lot of people might not make a 15, 20 minute drive to the clinic on their one weekend off.”
Rosa Magaña, co-director of Clinica Tepati, has also volunteered at the Shifa Vaccination Clinic.
She said one big barrier to vaccination — particularly for older Spanish-speaking immigrants — is that they might not be tech-savvy, own a computer or have a phone. She and other volunteers at the Clinica Tepati have been calling current patients and registering them for vaccines without extra effort on their end.
Volunteers aren’t just doing that for current patients. Magaña said that a lot of their vaccination registrations are through word of mouth or through overlapping events with the Latino Medical Services Association.
“A lot of our patients will say, ‘Oh, can you help register my family or my friends?’” she said. “If people call me, I’ll help them register for the vaccine.”
The variety of outreach techniques and culturally aware health practices has enabled the clinic to administer over 8,000 doses of the vaccine — a number that’s still growing.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated how many vaccine doses were administered. It has been corrected.
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