Vulnerable residents face many barriers to COVID vaccination

by Meg St-Esprit and Juliet B. Martinez

Manuel Lopez, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ecuador, had no idea he could even be vaccinated until volunteers from Casa San José called him.

“I’ve never thought about going to get the vaccine,” he said. “But when they called me from Casa San José, I said, sure, and I got it. They helped me with everything.” 

The 65-year-old Mount Oliver resident has worked in a recycling plant consistently throughout the pandemic, with the exception of two weeks he took off early in 2020. His co-workers were worried he was at higher risk because of his age. Yet the stress of sitting at home watching the news was worse, so he went back to work. 

“Truthfully, the pandemic has had me very worried, very panicked, but I haven’t gotten sick with coronavirus. I’ve had co-workers test positive. I’ve never had symptoms though.” 

Now that he’s had the vaccine, he’s not panicked anymore. 

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Allegheny County — like in most communities across the country — has been fraught with obstacles that make getting the vaccine harder for those at most risk of serious illness and death from the virus. County leadership has been pointing residents towards its Wednesday press conferences and updates on the county website to learn about vaccination. But the information leaves residents with important questions unanswered, and residents who aren’t tech savvy quickly give up when they hit a “red screen” or error message when signing up online for appointments that show up with no predictable pattern.


Vulnerable residents face many barriers to COVID vaccination. These community groups are working to fill the gaps.



Daeja Baker outside of her home in Polish Hill. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)


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