About 20 volunteers, mostly students from South Oak Cliff high schools, led a door-to-door canvassing effort recently to push the COVID-19 vaccine in the neighborhood.
It is among the areas in Dallas County with the lowest vaccination rates.
These visits are an opportunity to answer questions about the vaccine and to encourage community members to get it, according to Dallas County Human and Health Services Department officials.
The county also offered a vaccination clinic at Kiest Park assisted by EMS personnel.
South Oak Cliff residents approached by the volunteers last Saturday could head to the Kiest Park site a few blocks away to get the vaccine without an appointment that same day.
The June 5 event was part of a DCHHS program in partnership with Battleground Texas, a group seeking to transform Texas into a battleground state in presidential elections.
Just as the Get Out the Vote campaign is an effort to increase voter turnout, these “Get Out the Vaccine” events seek to boost the number of vaccinated people in the city and the state.
June has been designated a Month of Action by President Joe Biden, with the aim to encourage Americans throughout the country to get vaccinated before July 4.
Saturday’s event was part of a larger vaccinating effort across the city of Dallas. DCHHS has hosted similar events in Pleasant Grove with the help of Pleasant Grove Unidos and Somos Tejas, said Eugenia Castañeda from County Judge Clay Jenkins’ office.
This was the second event in South Oak Cliff, with future efforts focusing on Cedar Hill and Vickery Meadow.
Castañeda said these communities were selected based on data provided by the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI), which shows these are neighborhoods with the lowest vaccination rates. For instance, as of last week, around 85% of South Oak Cliff residents hadn’t gotten the vaccine yet.
Most volunteers participating in the canvassing effort were high school students, since DISD has a 40-hour community service requirement to graduate.
But, for many students, this requirement has been difficult to meet because of the pandemic, according to Jheison Romain Nieto, policy advisor and Jenkins’ office manager.
These door-to-door visits allow students to serve their community despite limitations imposed by the pandemic.
Even though not all residents visited by the students chose to receive the vaccine, Romain Nieto said he believes the effort is worth the while.
“[Going door-to-door] is one of the most effective ways to take action,” he said. Especially when done by community members themselves.
Castañeda, who is helping organize the events, was a DISD student like many of the volunteers.
She got involved in her current job via community service and student activism, participating in similar campaigns.
“I always tell students the work they’re doing today is very important,” Castañeda said.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re doing this in our own community,” she added. “I hope when they grow up and go to college, they remember this experience. May they continue their lives returning to and serving their community.”
Mario García, 18, a senior at Sunset High School, said his experience visiting his neighbors door to door has been “incredible” because he has been able to meet many people in his community and gotten to know their views on COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“What I like the most is being able to educate people on things they don’t know, because many of them don’t have as much information about how they can help the community and help themselves and their families,” García said.
Edgar Soto, a South Oak Cliff High School senior, reflected on his experience — and the reactions of the residents they visited.
“There’s still a lot of people who are wary of the vaccine,” he said. “But it’s all about trusting science and having vaccines for all.”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, just over 43% of Dallas county residents are vaccinated.
Experts have said that, based on scientific estimates, 80% of the population has to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
That threshold could be reached by late July, according to the PCCI.
Outreach opportunities to encourage county residents to get the vaccine are open to anybody who wants to help, not just high school students.
For more information, visit mobilize.us/MadeToSave/.