Stories & Voices
Fearing Attacks Adds Extra Challenge to Getting AAPI Communities Vaccinated
April 15th, 2021
UJA Federation of New York >> <p>Community Free Market in Flushing, Queens included a vaccine appointment sign up.</p>

Community Free Market in Flushing, Queens included a vaccine appointment sign up.

UJA-Federation has awarded $588,000 in grants for vaccine access and education to over 90 community-based organizations in New York. We’re sharing how the funding helped one grassroots nonprofit, Asian Americans for Equality, that serves the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and immigrant communities in New York. NOTE: This story was updated on June 9, 2021. 

There are some challenges to getting vaccines that are common to many immigrant communities. To name a few: No online access. False information. Language barriers. And difficulty navigating the appointment system. The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and immigrant communities alike face all of these.

Yet there is another daunting hardship AAPI communities encounter that sadly adds another layer of complication: The fear of getting physically attacked while walking or traveling to a vaccine site. Xenophobia and racism threaten the ability of many in AAPI communities to get vaccines and protect their health.

“People are scared to walk around,” says the Managing Director of Community Services at Asian Americans for Equality, Emily Rios. “That’s why we’re collaborating with grassroots organizations who are able to accompany people to a vaccine site and volunteers to disseminate correct information.”

Vital Role of Volunteers

“We couldn’t do this without great volunteers,” Emily says. “And everyone’s having a hard time. Through the UJA grant, we’re able to offer a small volunteer stipend to show our appreciation.”

The stipends are important especially in low-income communities where people are less able to offer their time without pay.

Asian Americans for Equality also relies on volunteers to help organize and run events like the Community Free Market in Flushing, Queens, held in early spring. The Free Market, as the name suggests, offers free clothing, housewares, and toiletries that were donated for the event. The Market also includes tables for people to sign up for vaccines and get information about vaccine safety. Volunteers signed up more than 75 people for vaccine appointments at the Flushing location. Another Free Market in Chinatown was held in April.

Filling in the Information Gap

The UJA grant also helps fill in the information gap by getting out reliable messages.

“The funding gives us time on Chinese radio to provide messages about vaccine safety,” Emily says. “WeChat is popular in the community, but it’s subject to a lot of false information, so we’re using these radio spots to communicate accurately and clearly.”

Asian Americans for Equality is weaving vaccine safety communications into the many services the organization provides, including housing advocacy, immigration, and benefits counseling.

“We knock on doors to talk to people about their rights as tenants, and we’ll also talk about vaccines and hand out vaccine information sheets,” Emily says. “Although there are many layers of obstacles, we’re always trying to give a comprehensive response.”