SELBYVILLE — Worldwide vaccination efforts to combat COVID-19 continues to go “local.”
Saturday, upward of 150 individuals received a shot in the arm with the first of two Pfizer vaccine doses during a mass vaccination clinic hosted by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 27 in conjunction with Delaware’s Division of Public Health.
The clinic followed previous vaccination clinics hosted by Local 27, held March 25 and April 22 for some 60-plus people who are now fully vaccinated with both doses.
“In our first cycle we did a lot of our (Local 27) members,” said Jesus Sanchez, assistant director for UFCW Local 27’s Selbyville office. “We represent a large number of the poultry workers in the area. But we also opened it to the general public, too.
“We have worked with the Department of Health. They have been amazing with us,” Mr. Sanchez said. “In some of our recruitments, we have set up a table, thanks to BJ’s in Millsboro. They allowed us to set up a table there. So it’s kind of all building on itself.”
Chelsea Haring and Shane Whitman, an engaged couple from Millsboro, flashed “We’re No. 1” signifying they were first in line to receive their shots at the clinic.
“I work at BJs Wholesale in Millsboro. These guys (Local 27) actually came into my work and had a table and were handing out the applications, to come here and do it. They gave me the flyer,” said Ms. Haring. “We signed up. We came together at the same time. Everything went well.”
“They told me to come in, and here we are today,” said Mr. Whitman, employed by Sposato Landscape in Milton. “My dad got the shot … other family members got it. My dad just got his second shot and he is totally fine and everything.”
“This is interesting that a lot of people didn’t want to do it. I am around people all day at work. A lot of the people have had COVID in my work,” Ms. Haring said. “I’m just trying to get it done to prevent me and other people from getting it.”
Vaccination efforts have met some reluctance and apprehension, Mr. Sanchez said.
“We have actually run into a lot of individuals who had some concerns,” said Mr. Sanchez. “We said, ‘Come down. Have a cup of coffee with us. You can watch everybody else. And then when you get the courage up, go get your shot.’ They were extremely happy about that. Everybody has been extremely happy.”
Local 27 has undertaken an educational process, spanning about two months.
“I am lucky enough to be bilingual. The majority of our staff is bilingual. We have shop stewards who speak both Spanish and Haitian Creole. So we have been able to communicate with our members,” said Mr. Sanchez. “When we first started talking to everybody there was a lot of hesitancy. Now we’re to the point where things are starting to loosen up. People are much more confident because they see millions of other individuals have already gotten the shot and nothing happened to them — and they didn’t turn into Dracula or anything.”
Most of Saturday’s vaccinations were by appointment, with a limited number of walk-ins accepted. Vaccine shots were administered by DPH staff from State Service Centers in Milford, Seaford and Georgetown, according to Pat Post, clinic manager at Adams State Service Center in Georgetown.
At Local 27’s first vaccination event, it was allowed 75 individuals. “And we had 65 vaccinations done. Now, because we did so well on our first one, we are allowed a second one,” Mr. Sanchez said. “Today is the first cycle. We were allowed 150. We already filled our 150, and so we are allowed 20 to 25 walk-ins.”
A limited supply of additional vaccine doses was available, if needed, Mr. Sanchez.
First-dose vaccine recipients from Saturday’s clinic are scheduled to return May 15 for their second shot.
“Pfizer has been going extremely well. They are doing clinical trials now on younger age kids, to be able to kind of send them back to school, which is amazing,” Mr. Sanchez said. “All in all, we are very lucky that the Department of Health had that confidence in us to have this second event. I think the Department of Health is going to allow us to do another one. Hopefully they will allow us to double the number again and we’ll be able to get more people vaccinated.”
UFCW Local 27 represents about 3,000 workers on the Eastern Shore, and about 22,000 workers in four states, Mr. Sanchez said.
“Initially, down here in Sussex there was a little bit of a challenge in getting shots in arms. So we wanted to step into the fray and kind of assist, not only our members but the community,” Mr. Sanchez said. “Our members are all essential workers. We represent supermarket workers, nursing homes, poultry plants — these are all essential workers. Without them you are not eating at all, or loved ones are not being taken care of.”
In 2020, during a peak period in the pandemic, the poultry industry was among the hardest hit with COVID spread.
“A lot of members were infected with COVID; the concerns were extremely high. We worked with the plants to be able to start putting in barriers between workers and other precautionary things so they could go to work safe,” said Ms. Sanchez. “At the end of the day we want them to go home and enjoy their time with their families. That’s what this is all about. Our role as a union is to make their lives better, to make their work lives better so their home life can be better.”