“Health Care For All (HCFA) teams have been hitting the pavement, canvassing the area, going door to door, talking to residents about the COVID-19 vaccine and offering information on it as well as vaccine clinics in the region.

City resident Eladia Romero is leading the team working in the streets of Fitchburg and Leominster as part of the organization’s Vaccine Equity Initiative, a project in partnership Archipelago Strategies and coordinated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

“We speak with people on their doorsteps, keeping physical distancing and wearing a mask,” Romero said. “We engage them on the importance of vaccination, answering questions, calming fears, and giving information on upcoming clinics.”

Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester are on the list of communities where canvassing is taking place. HCFA Director of Communications and Immigrant Health Maria Gonzalez-Albuixech is the Vaccine Health Equity Coordinator for the project, which she said is part of a larger effort targeting 20 municipalities across the state hardest hit by COVID-19, “taking into account the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”

“(We are) working with community and based organizations on the ground to provide accurate information about the vaccine, connecting communities with vaccination clinics at the local level and supporting other municipal efforts in this regard,” Gonzalez-Albuixech said. “We are reaching out to key populations who have been hit the hardest precisely because they were at the frontlines and have been severely underserved for decades.”

Romero, echoing Gonzalez-Albuixech, said they are focusing on Black, Indigenous, people of color, immigrants, people living with disabilities, “and other communities in need in every corner of both Fitchburg and Leominster.”

“It’s going great so far,” she said. “We are having some amazing conversations and saving lives.”

Romero said they have spoken with people who are “scared and hesitant” when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are encountering more questions about the safety of the vaccine especially after the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused,” she said. “The one-on-one conversations are having great impact, and we are even noticing that people who initially are hesitant are coming around when we follow up with them.”

“This mission became more crucial than ever during the pandemic as the organization tries to help underserved communities navigate access to testing, treatment and now the vaccine,” Gonzalez-Albuixech said. “I feel very fortunate that I get to make a difference in the vaccine rollout in those communities that had been hardest hit by COVID-19, such as Fitchburg and Leominster.”Boston-based Health Care For All was founded in 1985 with the mission to advocate for health justice in the state by promoting health equity and ensure access and coverage for all.

Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale said they are glad to have the teams in the city helping to spread information about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are pleased to be partnering with Health Care for All as they assist our community in overcoming this pandemic,” DiNatale said.

Gonzalez-Albuixech said it is “critical” for organizations such as HCFA “to step up to the plate and put their skills at play to help communities overcome barriers to access the vaccine.”

“At the end of the day, lives are at stake here.”

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