WORTHINGTON — As of last weekend, 65.6% of Nobles County residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine available to protect against COVID-19. While the percentage locally is higher than that in neighboring counties, health department officials, medical personnel, pharmacies and concerned citizens continue to advocate for vaccinations.

On Saturday, vaccine ambassadors with the grassroots organization Seeds of Justice in Worthington partnered with St. Mary’s Catholic Church, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and Unidos Minnesota to bring a vaccination clinic to Worthington. The goal was to increase the number of vaccinated youths, and to continue to build trust within Worthington’s ethnically diverse population.

It wasn’t the first vaccination clinic they’ve helped organize, and it won’t be the last as Seeds of Justice continues to work with the Minnesota Department of Health, WellShare and local public health officials to increase vaccination rates locally.

Both the UFCW union and Unidos Minnesota provided raffle gifts for those who were vaccinated at Saturday’s event. The clinic was open to anyone ages 12 and older.

“We want to continue in school and not in distance learning,” shared Aida Simon, a Seeds of Justice volunteer who helped organize Saturday’s vaccination clinic with her daughter, Aisha (Adyiam) Kimbrough, and Leticia Rodriguez. They sought assistance from Worthington’s Be The Change group, comprised of youths and young adults, to help spread the word and encourage youths to get vaccinated.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

At the end of the day, another 22 Nobles County residents — most of them youths under the age of 18 — had received their first dose of the vaccine.

Seeds of Justice wasn’t anticipating a large turnout for the event, and will continue to press on by engaging with people and providing factual information about the vaccines and the virus.

“There are people that are really resistant to (getting vaccinated) due to misinformation,” Simon said, adding that their group spoke two weeks ago to the congregation at St. Mary’s. Dr. Ashraf Amadou and Cecilia Amadou, formerly of Worthington, have returned to speak with local communities of color about the vaccines.

The group said a large part of what they are doing is building trust within the diverse ethnic groups in Worthington.

“A lot of the work Aida and Leticia are doing is door knocking, word of mouth — really making those connections in the community to have those conversations,” Kimbrough shared. “They navigate the social barriers that a lot of our elected and health officials don’t know how to do.”

Thus far, Seeds of Justice has nine vaccine ambassadors, and the plan is to continue to build that core group. They are looking for people who can speak specific languages or dialects, including Tigrinya, Anuak, Hmong dialect and Karen.

Simon said there is also a small, but growing Dinka community (an East African language) in Worthington that they want to reach with vaccine information.

The work the group is doing doesn’t take the place of local public health or hospitals and clinics, both those entities are already overwhelmed, Simon said.

“We can do all the outreach, but we need the nurses and the vaccine,” she said. “Our part is logistics and outreach.”

Rodriguez said helping to educate the public about COVID-19 and getting vaccinated is personal to her. She lost a sister last year to the global pandemic, and she has a son with cystic fibrosis who is at higher risk for getting the virus.

“I don’t understand why people are making it political — it’s a worldwide pandemic,” she said. “I don’t understand why people are saying it’s for religious beliefs.”

Simon said she just wants to make sure people of all different languages get the correct information needed to make a decision.

Kimbrough said a big issue with youths not getting vaccinated is due to misinformation they read on social media. She told of one example on TikTok in which a girl said a magnet was placed in her arm when she got vaccinated.

“And they believe it!” Kimbrough said. “Sometimes, they just need a trusted adult or a role model to go to them and tell them it’s not true."

Those who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday will get their second dose during another vaccination event on Oct. 2 in Worthington.

“We’re going to continue to do as many vaccination events with WellShare International as we can, and continue to work with Public Health,” Simon added. “We’re just trying to make our people better.”