Soon after the mayor knocked on his door, Terrance Williams ran down the street — to get a Covid-19 shot.
That was one of the more dramatic results of a methodical canvass undertaken by 50 volunteers Saturday through New Haven neighborhoods.
The city Health Department teamed up with the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), the American Red Cross, Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, CARE, URU, and Together New Haven to cover streets in Wards 19, 20, 21, 22, 28, and 29 — encompassing Newhallville, Dixwell, and Beaver Hills — for the Saturday canvass.
The goal was to provide residents with information about Covid-19 vaccinations and to debunk misconceptions fueling vaccine hesitancy
“I have one granddaughter that says, ‘I’m not getting a Covid-19 vaccination!’” said Peggy Lyons informed the canvassers on her Winchester Avenue doorstep “And I told her, ‘Then you cannot come into this house.’”
The visitors — city Community Services Administrator Mehul Dalal and Red Cross disaster services Director Susan Shaw — were among 15 canvassers fanning out in New Haven neighborhoods Saturday to urge more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Lyons told Dalal and Shaw that everyone in her household was already vaccinated. Lyons said that she was concerned about younger family members refusing to get vaccinated or not yet eligible due to age.
The visitors told her about how people above 18 can receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in town; anyone 16 or 17 years old must be accompanied by a parent and can receive only the Pfizer vaccine.
Canvassers were prepared with suggested talking points and a Covid-19 vaccination fact sheet. According to the sheet, the Pfizer vaccine has a 95 percent protection rate against Covid-19, the Moderna vaccine94 percent, and one-shot Johnson & Johnson 72 percent. Suggested talking points included reminding people that insurance and ID are not required to get a vaccine at the many location set up around town, and no one can be turned away. Obtaining the Covid-19 vaccine won’t affect anyone’s immigration status.
“Our goal is not to go out there and say, ‘Take this vaccine.’ We want to make sure that they’re informed and educated about what is actually out there and available to them,” said Shirley Ann Lawrence, co-chair of the Newhallville Community Management Team. “I think people are hesitant because history repeats itself. It’s really hard, especially people from our community, to really trust the system.”
During a press conference prior to the canvas, New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond said the ultimate objective was to listen to what concerns that residents have. Bond said that overall across the city, close to 42 percent of individuals have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We know that during this pandemic, this neighborhood among other neighborhoods had a higher prevalence of positive cases,” Bond said. “We have to make sure that we get to every single door in this community. We have to make sure that we have offered the vaccine to every single resident in our city.”
Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison, who grew up in Newhallville, told the volunteers that anytime Dixwell and Newhallville come together, that’s her two hearts coming together.
“We will let our community know that the vaccination works,” Morrison said. “Science works.”
Mayor Justin Elicker, Bond, and a small group of volunteers covered Ward 19. One of the first stops was at International Package Store at 578 Winchester Ave. Owner Vance Cotten told Elicker and Bond that he had not been vaccinated but his family had.
“How do we get you vaccinated?” Elicker asked Cotten.
“I’m not one that normally gets sick, so I’m not worried about me,” Cotten said. “I’m worried about my 6-year-old daughter.”
Elicker reminded Cotten that he might not get sick but could still pass coronavirus to someone else. He informed Cotten about the on-spot accessible vaccination clinics at ConnCAT (Moderna), Bassett Community School (Pfizer), and Floyd Little Field House (Pfizer) that were running simultaneously to the canvassing event.
“I don’t know if you can take some time off today but ConnCAT is two blocks from here,” Elicker said. “Walk down there. Take the shot and head right on back. Super easy but no pressure.”
Cotten remained on the fence but said he would take the idea into consideration.
A handful of residents did not open their doors or claimed to already have been vaccinated. A pamphlet was put in each mailbox to pass along information. Every person who answered the door received one of the 300 goodie bags, which included a mask and a handout that answered common questions about Covid-19.
Not long after speaking with Elicker and other volunteers, Terrance Williams headed down the street toward ConnCAT to receive his Covid-19 shot. Williams said he had just spoken with a close friend who reinforced the idea and made the decision a done deal.
“I’m also convinced because my friend received both of his shots,” Williams said. “And he’s still living. I don’t trust this shot. I’m only taking it because he told me to. I’m also taking it because I’m living in a household that’s not mine. and I need to be vaccinated because they took their shots.”
Sheffield Avenue resident Lara and Matt Denney, Leesha Gunnink, and Ryan Stewart said that they were inspired by Alder Kim Edwards to canvass
The group said while walking door to door they had spoken with a 19 year-old at the bus stop who said she wanted to get vaccinated but was worried about the backlash from skeptics.
“She said, ‘What will people say if I get it and they are against it?’ So, there’s a lot of social pressure that’s going on.”
Eugene Dews, on Sheffield Avenue, told the group that he already received his J&J vaccination a month ago. Dews said that he was concerned once the J&J rollout was put on pause due to reports of blood clot complications not long after receiving his shot.
“I was worried and went to the doctor and got a blood test. I got an ultrasound and a chest X-ray,” said Dews. “I was worried before even receiving the vaccine. I just went on and did it because I feel like a little protection is better than no protection at all.”
Dews said that he would pass along the canvassers’ pamphlet to his friends.
“I’m going to be talking to some friends on the phone and see if they got vaccinated,” Dews said. “A few friends that I know did take the shot. One of them was the one that passed along the information to where I went. A lot of people don’t take it seriously, but Covid-19 is real.”