The Giving Team Inc. is offering both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines at its monthly Food for Thought program Saturday.
The Arkansas Minority Health Commission will administer the vaccines for free and also offer free wellness screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and colorectal testing kits from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The event will take place in the parking lot at the corner of Church Street and Malvern Avenue, between the Habitat for Humanity Restore and the 420eats Food Truck Court.
For Janice Davis, president and founder of The Giving Team, the importance of vaccinations in minority communities boils down to one word: "Life."
"We're such a misinformed community," she said. "With the Hispanic population, they didn't want to fill out paperwork. With the African Americans, me being one, but I've had my shots since January, I've fought and worked really hard to get older African Americans their shots. But now it's the misinformation."
Davis attributed some of the distrust between minority communities and the health care community to historical events.
"They want to always talk about Tuskegee, but Tuskegee wasn't the only failed era in medicine," Davis said. "We've just been denied medicine and adequate health care for many, many years. The vaccine now is part of living."
Miriam Ramirez, an attorney in Hot Springs, helps Davis reach out to the Hispanic community and looks to increase vaccination rates among Hispanics.
"I know that they're lower because number one, lack of information in people's languages," Ramirez said. "A lot of times even fliers or announcements will be in English so non-English speakers won't necessarily know there's a clinic available or vaccines available."
Ramirez said the legal status of some in the Hispanic population causes hesitancy about going to get vaccines, noting some think they will be asked many questions or need certain documentation to get a vaccine.
"We've been letting them know appropriate and correct information," Ramirez said. "You know, 'Hey, you don't have to be a U.S. citizen to get the vaccine. You don't have to have this or have that.'"
Ramirez stressed the importance for those in the Hispanic community to get vaccinated so they can avoid worse health and financial problems later.
"God forbid if they get COVID, it's going to be a lot more complicated," Ramirez said. "A lot of people who are immigrants don't have insurance. They don't have access to medical doctors for themselves. If something happens, it's going to be a lot tougher for them because of medical bills and medical things that come with complications from COVID."
The Giving Team has incentives to give to those who get vaccinated including Walmart gift cards and food cards.
Other nonprofit organizations will also be at the event offering clothes, lunch, care bags and more, a release said.
"It's a perfect time for them to come and not only get (vaccinated), but also all these other resources," Ramirez said. "All these other organizations are showing up."
Ouachita Behavioral & Wellness, Walgreens, New Life Church Outreach, IronGrace Ministries, Cora Jones Tax Service, the Literacy Council of Garland County and Cooperative Christian Ministries and Clinic will all be in attendance.
Jim Rardin will also offer free cellphones for SNAP and Medicaid Recipients
"The importance of The Giving Team, my nonprofit and our Food for Thought, is you don't have any rhetoric," Davis said. "You don't have anybody saying, 'Oh, OK, you have to do this and this.' All you have to do is just come get a shot for your life, for our community, for our world at this point."
Davis said she hopes the event can get at least 100 people vaccinated Saturday, but even if just 10 people get vaccinated, that is 10 more people who will hopefully spread the message about vaccines.
Davis encouraged all of the people who normally attend Food for Thought to attend once again Saturday.
"The importance of the vaccine is like I said, life," Davis said. "Having as much normalcy for everyone, it's not about you. It's about everybody. Right now we've got to realize we are our brother's keepers."
Ramirez said she hopes the recent statistics will push people not out of fear, but out of responsibility to get their vaccine Saturday.
"I don't know what other that we can do," Davis said. "As I've said, offer incentives, reach out to the community. I don't know. (They're) life-saving because people are dying."