GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) – Tables and booths filled the Barksdale Pavilion for the Annual Back to School Health and Wellness Fair at Jones Park.
Hundreds of families came out Saturday morning to make sure their students were ready to hit the books after a long summer vacation.
And while the Singing River Health System handed out flyers and interacted with visitors just like other booths, staff also wanted to get more Mississippians vaccinated, especially Hispanics.
Community health advisors from the Magnolia Medical Foundation helped out with the site, bringing translators for anyone who needed one.
“To the Hispanic community, don’t be afraid. Nothing will happen,” Jackson resident Carlos Rodriguez said. “(The shot) is the only way we are able to stop the coronavirus.”
He was one of the first people to roll up their sleeves for the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Rodriguez joined other families in taking time to talk with the medical professionals for the correct information, instead of making an uneducated decision.
“I think it’s better to have a small side effect than to be intubated in a hospital,” Rodriguez said.
That’s the reason why he finally got his shot after seeing the disease wreak havoc on people he knew.
“I already had relatives about to die that if it wasn’t for God being with them at that moment, I don’t know if I would ever see them again,” he said.
While the site was mainly for the area’s Hispanics, organizers also wanted to vaccinate younger people before the start of the school year.
“This vaccine will help the children because if we want life to continue, our schools to continue in person, we need to be vaccinated if we want to go out,” Magnolia Medical Foundation Project Director Mireya Alexander said.
Any Mississippian 12 years and older can get the vaccine, but language barriers and misinformation can make it harder for non-English speaking people to get the shot. Which is why this site is so important to the Hispanic community.
“The people that are getting vaccinated today do not know the English language,” Alexander said.
That’s why it was so important to have the community health advisors nearby to help patients with the paper work.
“Being able to have someone you trust, who you feel confident in to help translate and walk you through those steps are going to be really important,” said Susan Mayfield-Johnson with University of Southern Mississippi School of Health Professions.
As Mississippi continues to battle the highly contagious delta variant, healthcare officials hope the state sees a jump in its 34% vaccination rate.
“If we all get vaccinated, we will save people all over the world, not only yourself,” Alexander said.
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