La Tapatia Market and Tacos will serve up its regular fare of tacos, burritos, and other Mexican food on Saturday, August 14. But for those who visit the eatery at 1200 Green Bag Road between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. that day, there will be a unique offering: COVID-19 vaccines.
“Its going to be a popup vaccination clinic,” said Katie Luckini, whose office was next to the restaurant and helped organize the event. “The health department has been doing them all over when they’ve found a space where they can get more than a few people together,” she said.
“This is part of our continuing effort to go out into the community and meet people where they are and make it easier for them to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Monongalia County Health Department public information officer MaryWade Burnside via email.
Where some people might see a nuisance, Luckini saw a public health opportunity.
“I am moving from one office just a few doors down and the restaurant is expanding into my space, so I thought in that day between, where its just a big empty room, but we’re right next to a hub for the Latino community, let’s just use it for a clinic,” she said.
Luckini coordinated with La Tapatia’s owner Silvia Orneles and manager Juan Manuel Cardoso Rosas to choose a busy day to try and reach the most people.
“Sometimes Hispanic people are hesitant to go around other places, or they don’t speak English and things like that,” Cardoso Rosas said. “Since they come here to eat and send their money right here, we’ll take advantage to give them their vaccine”.
Interpreters will be available at the event.
As the Delta variant has become the dominant strain of COVID-19, the increased threat to the unvaccinated has spurred an increase in vaccinations, but that is no guarantee that Saturday’s event will break any records.
“Many have told me that they’re going to come, but I don’t know,” Cardoso Rosas said.
As an organization with experience reaching underserved communities, Luckini contacted the Morgantown/Kingwood branch of the NAACP for help.
“This is very organic. We’ve been working a lot with organizations such as the Monongalia County Health Department to try to get vaccinations to people who might be in communities that are overlooked otherwise,” said Morgantown/Kingwood NAACP president Dr. Jerry Carr Jr. “So we’re definitely not just interested in working with people who are in the African American community, we’re also trying to work with other marginalized populations such as the Spanish speaking community.”
As Carr points out, hitting a particular number of vaccines isn’t necessarily the objective when it comes to these types of events.
“We’re trying to create spaces where people feel comfortable coming in and getting a vaccine on their own terms. That’s what we hope these types of clinics do,” he said.
The local NAACP has worked with many local organizations to get out vaccines, but also addresses other health issues created by the pandemic.
“It’s part of our overall health approach … working desperately to deal with the ramifications that the pandemic put in front of us. We now have a blood shortage, a massive blood shortage. We just want to also let people know that’s another way they can help,” Carr said.
Those interested in helping with the blood shortage can donate today, August 12 from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. at Sabra United Methodist Church, 1234 Richwood Ave..
Cardoso Rosas is hopeful his regulars will choose to help their community by getting vaccinated on Saturday, “because if not we could get other people sick. We have to protect one another.”