NEW HAVEN, CT — Terrance Williams raised both his arms in jubilation, leading the roaring cheers that rang out from behind the twin glass doors of the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology on Saturday morning.
Williams, 58 of New Haven, had just received his first COVID-19 vaccination shot during the ConnCAT/Beta Tau Health Equity Free Vaccine Drive.
“I think it’s really important when you all go in the community and get the people to come out and take it,” Williams said, after walking about five blocks to the ConnCAT satellite location at the request of his friend.
The event was brought together by ConnCAT in cooperation with Beta Tau Boulé, the New Haven affiliate of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and was focused on the Newhallville and Dixwell Avenue sections of the city.
“So many of us in our community are reluctant to take the vaccine,” ConnCAT Board Chair and member of Beta Tau Boulé Carlton L. Highsmith said. “We’re doing all we can to make it as easy for people to have access to it. That’s what this event was all about today.”
The collaborative effort also included Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, the Red Cross, and over 75 volunteers that were assisting with everything from directing people coming in for their shots, to canvassing the neighborhoods to spread the word of the opportunity to be vaccinated.
“This is the Black community,” Beta Tau Boulé member John Turner said. “We believe that our mere presence as Black people here at this event serves as an incentive to come out and get vaccinated. By our presence, that we believe the vaccine is safe, and we believe it’s necessary and important.”
About 41 percent of people in New Haven have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, according to the CT Immunization Registry and the Connecticut Department of Public Health. But Turner said, the goal is to change the narrative around getting the vaccine for those communities that are still hesitant.
“They can look at us as examples and models,” he said. “And be willing to submit themselves to receive the vaccine for their own benefit and for the benefit of protecting others.”
Highsmith said terms like ‘vaccination hesitancy’ should not be the focus for folks when it comes to receiving their shots. However, the emphasis needs to be on building up a level of trust with the community — an event like this can provide that chance.
“The evidence is overwhelming that there is a trust gap,” he said. “It gets reduced when the message is being delivered by someone that you know and someone that you trust. So we think a big part of the fact ConnCAT and Beta Tau is putting its brand, its recognition on the line to say that ‘this is okay’ and ‘this is what you should do’ is going to help having that message delivered by a trusted, familiar source.
After a slower paced morning, a steady rise of individuals receiving their vaccination continued into the afternoon, Highsmith said.
Williams was one of those afternoon recipients.
As volunteers roamed the nearby area in packs, knocking on doors and letting residents know about the opportunity to be vaccinated, Beta Tau Bolué member Herb Knight said it was all for one simple, but impactful reason.
“Events like this serve to make the vaccine more accessible,” he said. “To help make it easier for people to get it. So if we can contribute in removing obstacles, then it’s important.”
Terrance Williams, 58, of New Haven sits back and receives his first COVID-19 vaccination shot during the ConnCAT/Beta Tau Health Equity Initiative free vaccination event on Saturday afternoon
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ConnCORP seeks to drive economic development in the Dixwell and Newhallville sections of New Haven by investing in local commercial and residential real estate. The objective is to deliver well-planned multi-use real estate investment, which can help stabilize the local economy, provide affordable goods and services, and create local jobs.