At 4:18 p.m., the exact moment when Reyna Martínez received the COVID-19 booster vaccine in her left arm, a smile came across her face.
Since she wore a safety mask, you couldn’t see the smile. But you could see her eyes broaden and brighten.
“I’m relieved,” said Reyna Martinez, 53 of New Castle, Delaware. “I don’t ever want to get COVID-19 again.”
Martinez was one of 240 people, nearly all Hispanic, who came to Salon Ruby, an events facility located in Wilmington, Delaware on December 9 to receive the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot. A popular destination for parties and fundraisers for the Hispanic community of Delaware, Salon Ruby partnered with ChristianaCare, a nonprofit, community health system headquartered in Delaware, to hold the vaccination event.
ChristianaCare’s community health team and its team of interpreters joined up to provide the booster shots. Each of the people who received their booster had already received their first and second vaccinations, and nearly all of those earlier doses were given at Salon Ruby by ChristianaCare caregivers. Each individual had access to both a clinical vaccinator at ChristianaCare, as well as an interpreter, so they could ask questions about the booster shot before they received it.
“Through partnerships with organizations that primarily serve the Hispanic community in Delaware, like Salon Ruby, we deliver on our commitment to the community to meet them where they are,” said Carla Aponte Johnson, MS, director of Community Health and Social Integration at ChristianaCare.
“We also are preventing COVID-19 transmissions, hospitalizations and even death. We are equipping our community members with useful information that will help them lead healthy lives.”
Lulu Mendez, the owner of Salon Ruby, is well-known in the community as her business became a destination center for quinceañeras and fundraisers. As the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 prohibited large gatherings, Mendez repurposed her business for food drives, community service events, and then, once the COVID-19 vaccine became available, vaccination events.
“We knew we can help our community by hosting events here,” Mendez said. “The community feels a lot more comfortable coming here than to a hospital, so this is an innovative way to helping protect their health.”
ChristianaCare has partnered with community leaders and organizations throughout the pandemic to provide access to facts, personal protective equipment and vaccinations, including health information in communities’ native languages, said Jacqueline Ortiz, M. Phil., vice president of Health Equity and Cultural Competence at ChristianaCare. This is the fifth ChristianaCare vaccination event at Salon Ruby.
“For members of our Latino community, it can be very difficult to obtain information on these important vaccines,” Ortiz said. “Most pharmacies have online scheduling systems in English and most of the information which is widely available is not in Spanish.
“Our events are staffed by Spanish speaking individuals, and we provide interpreters for the physicians and nurses who vaccinate, to create an environment where Spanish speakers feel comfortable obtaining care and can ask any questions or express concerns.”
For Mendez, there were no concerns about the COVID-19 booster shot – just the COVID-19 disease.
In June 2020, she began experiencing headaches and pain in her legs. She didn’t seek care, and just hoped the pain would go away. But it only got worse.
When she started to have trouble breathing, a month later, she called 911 and was eventually hospitalized at ChristianaCare’s Christiana Hospital. It was while she was hospitalized that she learned she had tested positive for COVID-19. After a 13-day hospital stay, she was discharged, but her symptoms didn’t disappear for another four months.
“COVID-19 was much worse than the flu,” Mendez said. “It was the worst disease I’ve ever had. That’s why it was so important for me to get vaccinated and get my booster shot. And that’s why it’s so important for everyone to get vaccinated.”