By Emily Drooby
Leaders of SOMOS Community Care are hopeful that on Wednesday Jan. 6, they will be able to vaccinate 400 of their front-line employees at two of their facilities: one in Manhattan, and one in the Bronx.
Board Chairman Dr. Ramon Tallaj said they have been promised 7,000 more doses by next week for their other health care workers. However, getting these doses sent to them has been a big fight.
“Our doctors are being called to go to a hospital to get a vaccine, that’s a joke. We are physicians,” he told Currents News.
SOMOS’ network of physicians help immigrant communities, and they also help those in underserved communities. They’ve been fighting the pandemic from the front lines since day one, feeding people, educating and testing. So far, they have tested over 800,000 people.
“We showed character during a difficult time, using our own money to be on the front lines, even knowing it could shorten our lives,” Dr. Tallaj said.
Now, they’ve prepared for the next step, distributing the vaccine. Right now, they have over 600 doctors’ offices, over 200 dentists’ offices which have been certified to give vaccinations and 125 fully trained field teams that can be sent anywhere.
They have enough freezers for 400,000 doses, and each doctor’s office can handle at least 2,000.
Even with all of these resources and preparations, they have still had to fight for the right to be included in both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s distribution plans, just like they had to fight for their health care employees’ doses.
They’re also involved in another fight: educating those who are hesitant about the vaccination.
“It’s not an easy proposal. Quite truthfully, people do have fears,” said Mario Paredes, the CEO of SOMOS.
He added that allowing patients to get and learn about the vaccine from their own doctors is important because it helps to put them at ease.
“How wonderful it is to have providers, physicians, that know you, that you trust them, that you can explain to them, that you can guide them and provide trust for what is being done,” he said.
According to Dr. Tallaj, SOMOS has also spent over a million dollars on a vaccine campaign. He added that in general, they have a high rate of vaccination among their patients — it’s a rate he considers to be unprecedented.
“Our patients have a trust in what we say and what we do,” he told Currents News.
Dr. Tallaj is in the process of working with both the Governor and the Mayor on their distribution plans.