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Tysons nonprofit Second Story to battle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy at fall festival tomorrow

Second Story had a vaccine distribution site at its Hispanic Heritage Festival in Springfield earlier in October (courtesy Second Story/Facebook)

(Updated at 4:55 p.m. on 10/13/2021) Fairfax County has partnered with the Tysons-based nonprofit Second Story to support COVID-19 vaccinations in the Culmore area of Falls Church tomorrow (Thursday).

Announced on Monday (Oct. 11), the vaccine distribution site is part of a fall festival that Second Story has organized with the county health department and Neighborhood and Community Services.

The vaccinations will be administered by the nonprofit Neighborhood Health, which will also return in three weeks to deliver second doses to those who need them.

The fall festival will take place at Second Story’s Culmore Family Resource Center (3304B Culmore Court) from 2-6 p.m. There will be food, music, crafts, and other community resources at the event in addition to the vaccination clinic.

“Part of the reason that this community is not entirely vaccinated is because they have trouble accessing a vaccination site,” Second Story spokesperson Abigail Brougher said. “…We wanted to make sure that the vaccine is accessible for them, so when they come to this event, there will be people right there able to give them the vaccine.”

This is the second time that Second Story has gotten involved in the county’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign after it hosted a similar site at a Hispanic Heritage Month Festival in Springfield earlier this month.

That event also offered the flu shot and other inoculations, according to Brougher.

(Correction: This article previously stated that 25 individuals were vaccinated at the Springfield festival. Second Story did vaccinate 25 people in one day about two weeks ago, but it was a separate community outreach effort. The nonprofit doesn’t have numbers for how many people got the COVID-19 vaccine at the Hispanic Heritage Festival.)

Dedicated to providing basic needs assistance, counseling, and other services to teenagers, young adults, and families, Second Story works directly with some of the community members who have been most affected by the pandemic from health and economic standpoints.

Some clients have contracted COVID-19, leading them to get sick or miss work, which can be devastating for young people just trying to make ends meet. In addition, many are ineligible for unemployment benefits and other supports, Brougher says.

As a result, Second Story has been offering rental assistance and meals throughout the pandemic. It’s still providing food to approximately 1,050 families every month through distribution sites, drop-offs, and programs, such as the after-school services that have started to meet in person again.

“We’ve been doing a lot of meetings virtually — family counseling, individual counseling, catching up with youth — and trying to just continue to provide some of those basic needs as we always have…food and clothes in addition to the bigger supports we provide,” Brougher said.

Even so, the nonprofit has encountered some vaccine hesitancy within the communities it serves.

There are a variety of factors behind that hesitancy, from wariness of the side effects and misinformation to the challenges of getting to a vaccination site without a car or the flexibility to take time off work, according to Soraya Borja, Second Story’s vice president of community-based services.

Taking place shortly before its annual Beacon of Hope fundraiser, which has been moved online for a second year, tomorrow’s fall festival is part of Second Story’s effort to reduce barriers to vaccination for its clients.

Its staff has distributed 200 flyers advertising the event throughout the community.

“This outreach has been really important to us, getting out into the community, getting face-to-face,” Brougher said. “We’re definitely a trusted face in the community, so if we’re able to instill some of that trust in the community that the vaccine is something they can feel comfortable with, we are eager to be able to do that.”

Photo courtesy Second Story/Facebook

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