Trust and accessibility make an impact at vaccine clinic in a Gresham flea market

Manuel Bejarano cares deeply about getting people in his community vaccinated, and not long ago he had an idea about how he could help make that easier for them. Manuel is the Business Manager at Paisanos Plaza, a flea market in East Multnomah County where the vendors and most of the customers belong to the Latino/Latina/Latinx community.  

Manuel has wanted to bring free dental and medical services to Paisanos for a while, but the pandemic interrupted his plans. When the vaccine became available and businesses began to reopen, he knew that Paisanos would be a perfect place to offer vaccination, so he connected with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to make it happen. 

“I wanted to help protect our community from COVID, and I knew having the vaccine available at Paisanos could help do that,” Manuel said. “People feel comfortable and safe here. It’s in their neighborhood and they’re used to coming here with their families to shop.” 

About a dozen vendors maintain stands at Paisanos, selling clothes, housewares, toys and more. The market includes a hair salon and a legal office specializing in immigration law. Manuel and his partner Raul run a stand near the front entrance where they sell tamales, fruit cups and other snacks to go. There’s a Mexican supermarket next door, so many people visit Paisanos as part of their regular shopping routine. 

On a recent day, interpreters from community-based organization Vive NW were stationed throughout the clinic at Paisanos to make sure people getting their shot could communicate with the team from mobile vaccination service provider Curative. Peace Corps Volunteer teams currently deployed to Oregon were also onsite to share information and resources and help answer questions. In just one afternoon, 153 people received a first or second dose. 

“A lot of people in the Latino community might want more information about getting vaccinated but aren’t comfortable going to a pharmacy where they don’t know if people will speak Spanish,” Manuel explained. “Or it’s hard to find time with their work schedule, or they might not have transportation. Here it’s convenient and familiar, and they know if they have questions, they can get them answered.” 

Julia Hill, OHA Field Operations Assistant Coordinator for the region, echoed Manuel’s statement that bringing vaccine into communities makes an impact. “We have learned that people are more likely to get vaccinated if we can bring the vaccine to them in partnership with people they trust, and we’ve been able to do that at Paisanos. We are so grateful to Manuel and our partners for this collaboration so we can make sure more people are protected from COVID-19.”