When it became clear that you’d need serious computer skills to secure a COVID-19 vaccine, NCJW Essex saw a necessary call to action. Quickly, they convened a nimble-fingered group of volunteers to help senior citizens and others eligible for the shots at the time who could not navigate the patchwork system in their state.
Assisting those with no cell phones, no email accounts, or printers, NCJW Essex advocates soon became logistics experts understanding the specific appointment tips for the county and surrounding areas.
Laurie Schuftan, NCJW Essex vice president of volunteer outreach, called herself the “matchmaker,” connecting those who needed it, with assistance. Schuftan and other volunteers would often walk past grocery stores, construction sites, and other places of business to offer their services to get every eligible worker a chance to obtain the vaccine if they desired.
Within one month, about 20 volunteers helped over 300 people obtain appointments in New Jersey. The program is still going on today, even as eligibility has opened up to ensure that everyone who wants the vaccine can easily obtain this life-saving shot.
On the other side of the country, NCJW Sacramento has been using its resources to respond to the needs of their community since the COVID-19 pandemic first began to manifest in the United States.
When they became aware of the lack of PPE, NCJW advocates quickly started making homemade non-medical masks and delivering them to people in need including farmworkers and those experiencing homelessness. In the end, the section delivered over 2,100 masks through its program.
When vaccine development was ramping up at the beginning of 2021, the section decided to switch their efforts and focus on vaccine education through their “Get Out the Vax” campaign. First, they created a weekly newsletter, “vax fax,” that provided safety information from medical experts and then held a community-wide forum for professionals to provide explanations and answer questions directly from interested, concerned citizens in the Sacramento area.
Now that everyone 12 years and older is eligible for the vaccine, Get Out the Vax 2.0 is in full motion, working to educate the community about COVID-19 and vaccines, particularly focusing on 18 to 29-year-olds, representing a significant age group with vaccine hesitancy. Based on a similar program implemented during the Affordable Care Act authorization in the state, NCJW Sacramento uses what they call the “chicken soup” method — having grandmothers call their children and grandchildren to persuade them to get the vaccine if they haven’t done so already.
The program provides talking points, short stories, and language choices to be most persuasive in overcoming the hesitancy.
Even as more and more people throughout the US become fully immunized, NCJW advocates continue to step up, answering difficult questions, addressing fears, and helping their neighbors overcome any other barriers to accessing vaccines.