Health

San Francisco woman convinced 1,270 people to get vaccinated in the Bay area

A California woman says she has convinced thousands of people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by providing them with information about the vaccines and driving them to appointments.  

Felisia Thibodeaux, from San Francisco, said she has persuaded 1,270 people to get their shots by holding information sessions and removing the lack of transportation barrier, reported SF Gate.

In pre-Covid times, Thibodeaux’s job was to oversee of all day-to-day operations of of the senior-living non-profit organization. 

However, everything changed as soon as the coronavirus began to spread in the U.S. in 2020, including her priorities, which shifted to protect her community against the virus in Merced/Ingleside Heights. 

As of August 16, 77 percent of residents in the Oceanview/Merced/Ingleside area have been vaccinated, according to sf.gov

San Francisco native and 49ers fan Felisia Thibodeaux (pictured) convinced more than 1,200 people to get COVID-19 vaccine by holding ‘information sessions’ and driving people to their appointments

The I.T. Bookman Community in Inglewood Heights, San Francisco, California, has managed to get most of its members and staff vaccinated thanks to Thibodeaux's work

The I.T. Bookman Community in Inglewood Heights, San Francisco, California, has managed to get most of its members and staff vaccinated thanks to Thibodeaux’s work

The biggest barrier she’s had to encounter is to educate people on the easy approach of getting double-jabbed, she told SF Gate.

‘Having access was half of the battle,’ she said.

‘If we could establish a hub for access, then we can do many things, not to mention build continuity, whether there’s an earthquake, fires or the smoke.’ 

Thibodeaux added: ‘We’ve faced a lot during the pandemic.’ 

Due to the old median age of the community that I.T. Bookman serves, most of its members don’t or can no longer drive. 

Taking long bus rides to the closest vaccine sites at the Moscone Center or the Bayview is often unthinkable for those living in the Inglewood area, Thibodeaux said. 

So she thought that if the vaccine can’t come to the people of I.T. Bookman, then she would drive them to the vaccine.

People over 50 became eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Bay Area counties in April earlier this year

People over 50 became eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Bay Area counties in April earlier this year

Thibodeaux decided to purchase a large van with a grant from an unnamed donor and took turns driving one or two people at a time, due to social distancing, to the vaccination center at San Francisco City College.  

To make sure that her community was well-informed on the process of vaccination and how to make appointments, she and her team called an estimated 700 people.

Thibodeaux not only ensured that people would get double-jabbed but she also convinced some doubters to go and get their shots too.  

The I.T. Bookman community center roughly serves 60 percent African-American people, 30 percent Asian people and 10 percent Latinos, whites and other ethnicities.

Thibodeaux said much of the refusal to get vaccinated in her community comes from a place of fear even though it doesn’t necessarily seem that way.  

She told the SF Gate a story on one young man who showed up to the community center one day 

‘Have you been vaccinated?’ Thibodeaux asked, to which the man replied, ‘No, I’m not putting that s**t in my arm.’ 

Thibodeaux thinks many members of her community don't believe in the vaccines because of America's medical wrongdoings of the past

Thibodeaux thinks many members of her community don’t believe in the vaccines because of America’s medical wrongdoings of the past

Thibodeaux replied: ‘What are you talking about, that s**t? The vaccine?’ she remembers telling the young man. ‘What about the vaccine?’

‘I wasn’t letting him off with saying, “I’m not putting that s**t in my arm,”‘ she added.

After a long discussion with the young man, Thibodeaux understood that he felt scared, whether it was due to the information he read off the internet or things he heard from friends. 

To Thibodeaux’s surprise, the man came back a few days later and told her that he couldn’t counter her reason. 

He finally ended up making an appointment to get the vaccine, then went on to become an ambassador for vaccination at the center.

With Thibodeaux’s help, he even organized a focus group with a University of California of San Francisco physician at the center with young men who were hesitant to get vaccinated. Eight men left the focus group decided to get their jabs. 

‘We took the focus group to the block,’ Thibodeaux told the SF Gate with pride. 

Thibodeaux said that most people are in the neighborhood thanks to the power of the word of mouth. 

One person gets vaccinated and tells their story to a friend or a relative, who then spreads the word to another, and so on. Thibodeaux says that the key to get the doubters out of their shells is to make the conversation personal.

‘The secret is to keep it 100,’ she told SF Gate.  

Without exaggeration, Thibodeaux’s one-person-at-a-time philosophy has worked wonders within her community. 

‘It’s just changing the minds of one person at a time and meeting them where they are,’ she said. 

‘We’re afraid to talk to people, but you have to come straight up and not give people an opportunity to give you an excuse.’


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