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Reston parish's COVID-19 vaccination clinic aims to increase access for Hispanics

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In an effort to provide greater access to COVID-19 vaccinations for the Hispanic community, St. John Neumann Church in Reston will offer a free vaccination clinic at the church Aug. 15, 3:30-6:30 p.m., after the Spanish-language Mass. The second dose will be offered Sept. 12.

The clinic is planned in collaboration with the Fairfax County Health Department, which has held vaccination clinics at other churches in the county, and Safeway pharmacy.

Deacon Atanacio Sandoval, a leader of St. John Neumann’s Hispanic community, said many of the 600 or so parishioners who attend the Spanish Mass work on “the front lines” in service industries and already have been vaccinated. “But some still think, ‘I believe in God and he is going to protect me,’ ” he said.

Language barriers, long work hours and transportation issues also may contribute to lower vaccination rates among the Hispanic population. Some immigrants may have concerns about what kind of documentation is required to receive the vaccine, or wonder if their immigration status would be questioned if they registered to get vaccinated at a government facility.

More people might come to a church vaccination clinic because they consider it a place “they know they can trust,” said Celia Sandoval, Hispanic coordinator, who is married to the deacon.

“It will help people feel more comfortable,” agreed Jo-Ann Duggan, director of outreach, who said this is just one way the parish is reaching out to the Hispanic community. Volunteers offer classes for English-language learners, tutor children and will offer citizenship classes beginning this fall. 

Susan Infeld, parish nurse, has been working to get the word out through bulletins and social media that free vaccinations are available to anyone age 12 or older living in the United States, regardless of how long they have been here or their immigration status. “Proof of U.S. citizenship or Virginia residency is not required,” just name and date of birth, she said.  

Members of the outreach, communications and Hispanic ministries have created Spanish-language flyers advertising the clinic and have distributed them to other nearby parishes with large Spanish-speaking populations, including St. Joseph Church in Herndon, Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna and Christ the Redeemer Church in Sterling, where the Fairfax County Health Department held a vaccination clinic in March.  

Infeld said the clinic at St. John Neumann is open to all, whether they are parishioners or not. People who have previously had COVID-19 can be vaccinated, as long as they are not symptomatic, and are out of the isolation period.

Vaccination clinics are increasingly being offered at churches across the country to provide greater access to Black and Hispanic communities, which still have lower vaccination rates overall, although rates are increasing.

“We are all one family,” said Father Joseph T. Brennan, pastor of St. John Neumann, who said he was gratified to see different parish ministries coming together to work on the project. “This is one way we can reach out to this area and our neighboring areas that have large Spanish-speaking populations, and hopefully they will feel welcomed and safe.”  

Find out more

The free COVID-19 vaccination clinic will be Aug. 15, 3:30-6:30 p.m., at St. John Neumann Church, 11900 Lawyers Rd., Reston, after the Spanish-language Mass. The second dose will be offered Sept. 12. For questions, contact Celia Sandoval, Hispanic coordinator, at 703/390-2349 or csandoval@saintjn.org. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021