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Neighborhood Family Practice using grassroots effort to vaccinate more Clevelanders

“Many of them will listen to me if I listen to them first,” one doctor said. “We're vaccinating folks who otherwise would not be getting vaccinated."

CLEVELAND — As our Northeast Ohio hospitals fight for the sickest patients, one community health practice is going grassroots to get more Clevelanders vaccinated.

“I just wasn't feeling it. Just didn't feel it was necessary at first,” Marvin Turner told 3News Wednesday as he sat for his first dose of the vaccine at St. Malachi Parish, thanks to the team from Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP). 

His only side effect? Confidence in his immune system as the omicron surge continues. “I feel the same way I did when I walked in,” said Turner.

Aaron F. Grace got his booster at the makeshift clinic. He’s trying to set an example for his son. “It couldn't hurt me, and it could also help prevent any potential harm from being around COVID as there's been an uprising out in the communities,” he said.

These shots are the same ones you can find at most doctor’s offices or pharmacies, but instead, NFP is bringing the vaccines beyond its health centers to the people, reaching those on the margins differently. No appointments. No judgment.

“Opening up with, ‘I'm the doctor, and I know what's best for you and you should get a shot,’ I think that for the people that, that was going to walk in, it's already worked,” said Dr. Chuck Garven. 

Dr. Garven instead starts by listening, finding that works best to navigate around the excuses and the skepticism.

“Many of them will listen to me if I listen to them first,” he said. “So some of those folks, every day, we get vaccinated… we're vaccinating folks who otherwise would not be getting vaccinated.”

“We've all been through this COVID thing. And it's going on a little bit too long,” said Racquel Jones. She’s the hall director at St. Malachi. Jones and her team say finding partners to offer testing and vaccines, is just as important as the hot meal and other emergency assistance they offer. And it’s open to all.

“We built this on relationships. You have to have a relationship with the people that you serve because it means so much more,” she said.

Neighborhood Family Practice has given some 30,000 COVID-19 shots like this. 

They have plans for three clinics next week, including Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when they expect to do some 500 vaccinations. NFP will be at the West Side Catholic Center Tuesday, Jan. 18, and La Sagrada Familia Church on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland Saturday, Jan. 22. You can learn more by clicking here or calling (855) 637-6331. 

Dr. Garven says even as COVID-19 case counts rage, there are plenty of reasons to get vaccinated now.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Well, gee, why should I get vaccinated? Everybody's getting COVID anyway.’ The odds are getting seriously ill if you're vaccinated are so much less,” he said. “If you’re vaccinated, you're 17 times less likely to end up in the hospital, if you have COVID, and you're more than 20 times less likely to die from COVID. So, vaccinating as many folks as we can, anywhere we can, anybody who’s willing, is helpful for each individual that gets vaccinated, but it's a huge service to our whole community.”

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Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previously published, unrelated story.