Vaccine clinic organizers bring focus to need in North Omaha

Posted at 6:37 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 23:09:32-04

A vaccine clinic in North Omaha administered around 150 doses of the Moderna vaccine to local residents on Tuesday. That may not sound like a lot, but some say it’s a welcome step forward for an underserved community.

On Tuesday, Clair Memorial United Methodist Church acted as a vaccination clinic for those in North Omaha who they say have been neglected.

“We have the rights as citizens and residents of Douglas County to be treated with fairness and have clinics in our community, the same way that they pull all of those clinics West of 72nd," said Rev. Portia Cavitt.

The Douglas County Health Department told organizers like Cavitt that there was no space large enough in North Omaha to hold a long-term vaccination clinic. The department told 3 News Now that they were looking for something with 12,000-14,000 sq. feet, that was flat and offered plenty of parking.

"In a space like that we can do 5,000 or more individuals in a day, stay there for the long term and not have to tear down and reset the operation," said Phil Rooney, resource specialist for the department. "An old grocery store is ideal. Of course, it would have to be vacant, and no such place is currently available in the community."

The Douglas County Health Department said they are planning more of these small clinics for the area instead, including a drive-thru clinic that will be taking place at the Fort Omaha Campus of Metro Community College.

On Tuesday, with the help volunteers and nursing students from UNMC, North Omaha Area Health was able to advocate for around 150 vaccines to administer during the clinic. They say only one person missed their appointment and even called to reschedule, showing that there is​ a desire for the vaccine in the community.

“It’s not a matter of reaching people," said Mark Darby, clinic director of NOAH. "It’s a matter of actually providing the availability to people.”

Rev. Cavitt agrees that the messaging that African-Americans do not want the vaccine are misleading.

“Who’s saying that people don’t want it?" Cavitt said. "We had people that arrived at 12 o’clock.”

Darby said he feels North Omaha shouldn't have to rely on volunteers to make the vaccine available to the community.

"It's really a question of prioritization of the money that’s coming in," Darby said. "The COVID money that’s coming in here, to be able to allow even small vaccine clinics like this all across the county. This is relatively cheap to do.”

For this community in Omaha that’s been waiting for relief, UNMC nursing student Oliver Ramirez- Guiterrez said the vaccine came with a mix of emotions.

“Everyone’s excited to get the vaccine, because you’re kind of starting that next step in us recovering from this pandemic, I think there’s still kind of that lingering of what this past year has been like and all the grief and loss and everything," said Ramirez-Guiterrez.

The clinic was run by volunteers and nursing students from UNMC. The North Omaha Area Health Free Clinic said this is the first time they have worked with the Douglas County Health Department, and they're hoping to continue that relationship.

The health department said that they are planning some smaller clinics in the area soon, including a drive-thru clinic at the Fort Omaha campus of Metro Community College.

3 News Now reporter Jessika Eidson will have more on the clinic tonight at 10.

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