by Judith Fales

“I am Black. I am Latina. I am an immigrant. I am a Native American. I don’t know if I should get the vaccine. I can’t get an appointment to get my shot.” These are the people benefiting from pop-up clinics in our community. A pop-up clinic is one that opens in an area for one or a few days to administer vaccines and is staffed by local medical professionals. Pop-ups are playing a major role in providing access to COVID-19 vaccines to people disproportionately affected by the virus. The local effort is championed by Dr. Raul Vazquez.

Dr. Vazquez is leading the effort in our community to ensure equal access to health for populations often overlooked. His latest effort has been bringing the vaccine to Native Americans. Dr. Vazquez and his wife Toni founded Urban Family Practice with locations on the west and east sides of Buffalo, where they focus on primary and preventive care for chronic diseases, mental health, HIV, and substance use. A big part of the practice now is administering COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 100 percent of the vaccines he has received have been distributed. Dr. Vazquez says that trust in the medical system and access to people of color are major issues for those he serves.

In addition to administering vaccines at his clinics, Dr. Vazquez continues to organize and participate in pop-ups for Blacks, Latinos/Hispanics, and Native Americans. He is particularly pleased that after receiving the vaccines, these people go back to their communities and become ambassadors for those still hesitating. Noting that 40 percent of Western New Yorkers are people of color, many more people need to get vaccinated in order for us all to be protected.