Community members are seen at an earlier event at the Wally Choice Center in Glenfield Park, where on Aug. 29 Essex County’s mobile vaccination unit will join Montclair groups to make vaccinations available. (COURTESY MFEE)

By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

The first 50 people who register to be vaccinated at an Aug. 29 community event at the Wally Choice Center will each be eligible to receive $100.

The incentive, provided via an anonymous donor, is being given as part of the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence’s ongoing vaccine outreach program. Organizers say they’re particularly focused on getting more teens vaccinated. Overall, they’ve emphasized reaching more members of Montclair’s Black and brown communities, who remain vaccinated at lower rates than their white neighbors. 

The event, from noon to 4 p.m., will include several community groups and is being hosted alongside the 14th annual Back 2 School supply giveaway hosted by the Montclair Sentinels 16-87, an association of Montclair police officers of color.

Walk-ins are welcome, but the MFEE is encouraging advance registrations that can be done in English at bit.ly/Aug29MFEECovidVaccination or Spanish at bit.ly/29deagosto_VacunasContraCovid.

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The $100 awards will be given to the first 50 people who both register and get fully vaccinated. The MFEE will follow up with participants.

Essex County will provide three vaccines: Pfizer for those ages 12 and older, and Moderna Johnson & Johnson for those ages 18 and up. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two shots; the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one.

“The donor learned about the vaccine outreach MFEE had been doing and reached out to inquire how to help,” MFEE executive director Masiel Rodriquez-Vars said. “We discussed ways to boost vaccine numbers, particularly among younger residents and explored various incentives. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, suggested this very generous incentive and we were eager to get it underway.” 

She said in an announcement of the effort that incentives have proven useful in increasing vaccination numbers, and the MFEE is “overwhelmed by this donor’s personal commitment to ensuring the health of our community.”

The event was made possible by a partnership between MFEE and leaders of nonprofit and community organizations including Montclair Cobras Football and Cheerleading, the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation and Brother to Brother Mentoring. Fourth Ward Councilman David Cummings had worked with MFEE on outreach to those and other community groups. 

The MFEE said in its announcement it hopes to get more residents ages 12 and older vaccinated ahead of the upcoming school year.

“We want to do all we can to ensure that our students are safe and healthy when they return to schools,” Rodriquez-Vars said in the announcement. 

Montclair Cobras Director and deputy Chief of Police Wilhelm Young said in the announcement this type of partnership is more vital than ever.

“Working with our team of community leaders to assist in providing vaccines will help get us one step closer to beating the virus,” Young said. “The health and safety of our residents, especially the children, are of the utmost importance. If we can help in any way, the Montclair Police Department will be there.”

The MFEE has hosted several vaccination events since March, as part of an ongoing effort funded with a grant from the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, a regional grantee of the state Department of Health. It also hired three community health workers who are working alongside former Councilwoman and former school board member Dr. Renee Baskerville, serving as a medical consultant to the group. They’ve registered community members events such as food distributions by Montclair Mutual Aid and by Essex County.

Events held this year include virtual town halls with Black doctors, outdoor information sessions at local parks and preschools, social media marketing and a series of vaccination events at Wally Choice Community Center in Glenfield Park.

The health workers have connected people with vaccination opportunities through local CVS pharmacies, Mountainside hospital and the county’s mobile vaccination program

“There is clear evidence that vaccinations save lives,” Cummings said in the announcement. “This is an opportunity for community groups to come together and impact the residents they serve, and ultimately increase the township’s vaccination rate, making Montclair safer.” 

As of Thursday, 71% of Montclair residents of any age were vaccinated, and 85% of residents over the age of 18 were vaccinated, according to state data.

Statewide, 59% of residents of any age were vaccinated.

Aminah Toler, one of the MFEE’s health workers, previously told Montclair Local misinformation continues to keep many Black and brown residents from getting vaccinated.

“Hispanic families have reported that they’ve been told they have to pay for it, that they have to have medical insurance and that they will be reported to immigration if they take the vaccine,” Toler said. “Some African American families feel like it’s an experiment from the government. They don’t trust it. Some moms have said they’re not interested in getting their daughters vaccinated because there’s a possibility of a fertility issue.” 

Coronavirus vaccinations are provided at no cost to the individual, regardless of insurance status. If an individual has insurance, it can be billed, but the individual will not be charged. Vaccine facilities do not ask about or report immigration status to other authorities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is no evidence any vaccines, including coronavirus vaccines, cause issues with fertility. 

Dr. Renee Baskerville’s name was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of this post.