Samuel Gonzalez DelaCruz, a native of Costa Rica, was grocery shopping for staples from his homeland at his local Compare Foods, when a flyer in the store caught his eye. “I saw a paper that said Novant Health would be giving out vaccines in the parking lot today, so I decided to come,” he said.

He’d just received his first shot of the COVID vaccine and was sitting in his car waiting out the 15-minute observation period. “After such a difficult year, we finally have hope.”

The partnership with Compare Foods, a grocery store chain known for carrying popular products from across Latin America, is part of an effort by Novant Health to increase vaccinations among Latinos in Charlotte. It’s also one of just many efforts by Novant Health to administer the vaccines to historically underserved communities, part of its commitment to reducing health care disparities.

“These efforts could not have been accomplished without our amazing team members and community partners,” said Robbie Doran, manager of community engagement in Charlotte. “We are so grateful for the partnership with Compare Foods and look forward to hosting more community vaccination sites at this location and around the Charlotte community over the next several months.”


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According to a recent data analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Hispanic people in North Carolina have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their share of cases and compared to their share of the total population.

At the vaccination event, held April 29, Novant Health team members were able to administer 101 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, most of them to walk-ups who found out about the opportunity while heading in to buy groceries that day. They’ll return for the second dose in three weeks.

For Gonzalez DelaCruz, the decision to get vaccinated was an easy one. “This is not a game; this is our lives. I did it because I want to take care of myself and my family,” he said. Once he’s fully vaccinated, he’s looking forward to traveling and visiting relatives.

Across the parking lot, Dominican immigrants Elizabeth Morel Vargas and her mother, Diosmary Vargas Reyes, were also waiting after Diosmary received her shot. “I got my shot a few weeks ago, but I brought my mom today because she has some health problems, like high blood pressure,” said Morel Vargas. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

While Vargas Reyes had some initial doubts about the vaccine, she decided to get the shot after observing the experiences of several close friends and relatives. “They all got the shot and were OK, so I decided to get it too,” she said. “It was really fast. The nurse was wonderful and I had an excellent experience.”

After she gets her second shot and is fully vaccinated, she is looking forward to feeling more comfortable when she leaves the house and ditching the mask when she’s around other vaccinated people.

Rodrigo Rodriguez, an immigrant from Uruguay, heard about the event from his mother, a Novant Health team member, and at CENTI church, the Latino congregation where he belongs. As a newlywed who had to have a “COVID wedding,” Rodriguez is most looking forward to traveling with his new bride once he is fully vaccinated.

“I had no hesitations at all,” he said while waiting in his car with his pup, Brady. “I got the shot today because I really don’t want to be the reason someone else gets COVID. I have some older family members, and I want them to feel relaxed and comfortable when we are all together.”

TOP PHOTO: Rodrigo Rodriguez is pictured with his Goldendoodle.