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Vaccine Runner: On My Path to Public Health by Jacob Lopez

Howdy! My name is Jacob Lopez and this month I am graduating with a Bachelor’s of Public Health degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. College graduation means I am concluding my internship on the COVID-19 Team with The Health Collaborative (THC). Prior to my internship, I was a Community Health Worker serving families with multiple, complex needs through the Pathways HUB program. During my final semester when it was time to choose my internship site, I knew I wanted to be a part of the COVID-19 Team.

THC formed this Team because COVID-19 vaccines were not accessible for all people in San Antonio. During the initial vaccine roll-out, there were numerous reasons why people weren’t able to get vaccinated at the available sites. Lack of reliable transportation, inability to leave work, and online appointment registrations, which required computer literacy and access to a smart phone or computer and internet were some of the top challenges. Not to mention most of the marketing for clinics and registration opportunities were available primarily in English.

The model of this program at THC addresses those challenges by bringing COVID-19

vaccines along with COVID-19 education directly to communities with low clinic access and low vaccine rates. In my own classes about health disparities at UTSA, I learned there is a dramatic difference in access to health resources, especially between high and low-income residents in San Antonio. In my time here as an intern, I’ve been a part of our team’s mobile clinics going out to directly connect those without access to much needed pandemic resources.

Actually going out to communities and connecting people to what they need is very gratifying. I feel I’m directly making an impact in the public’s overall health and making a healthier community.

I feel I’m directly making an impact in the public’s overall health and making a healthier community.

What stood out to me during my internship were the personal experiences I had with community members. Being on the front line and seeing families connecting with our CHW team and receiving health services at our clinics really showed me the human impact and benefit of our work. Seeing the work being done expanded my view of what I can do in my career in public health.

I'll never forget a clinic held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on West Commerce. It was a very large event and at one point I was tagged in to be a runner between the registration table and the vaccine station. I was literally running around during the event, making sure patient paperwork was transferred smoothly, which became an unexpected workout that day! I saw that there is more to public health than just policy making. A community member spoke to me about her reasoning for getting the vaccine. She had recently had a family member get very sick with COVID-19 and did not want to go through the same experience. She got herself and her family vaccinated that day at the Church. Hearing stories like these show me that public health isn't limited to just an office, but visiting with and listening to our community is equally important.


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