She’s the Vaccinator.
A one-woman rescue team in San Francisco has personally helped vaccinate nearly 1,300 neighbors – and the ranks of her army of the jabbed grows daily.
“You can’t always wait three days for the cavalry to come to the rescue,” Felisia Thibodeaux, the executive director of the Southwest Community Corporation in the Ingleside Heights neighborhood, told The Post. “Community is our first responders.”
She launched her battle plan in January, before COVID vaccines were readily available to everyone. The problem of vaccinating her neighbors was compounded in this “marginalized” community by their age – “the average senior here is 87,” Thibodeaux said – by San Francisco’s hilly terrain and the neighborhood’s lack of nearby public transportation options.
“It would take seniors two hours to get to a vaccination site,” she said. The trip was long enough to deter many from even trying.
Her efforts got a big boost from an anonymous donor, who provided the funds to buy a 15-seat van, which Thibodeaux then used to drive neighbors, sometimes one or two at a time, to a vaccine site at San Francisco City College.
“Having access was half of the battle,” Thibodeaux, told SFGate.com. “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 smoke.”
So far, Thibodeaux has personally helped vaccinate 1,270 people. Her organization has assisted “another couple thousand” people get inoculated, she said.
The Southwest Community Corporation celebrated another major success Friday, opening an on-site vaccination program in their headquarters at the I.T. Bookman Community Center.
City data shows that about 21,000 people in the Ingleside Heights neighborhood have been vaccinated – a growing percentage of them due to Thibodeaux and her team.
Thibodeaux said she draws inspiration from her own family’s history of overcoming natural disasters. With roots in New Orleans, she said she lost family members during Hurricane Katrina. She personally survived San Francisco’s deadly Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and in the late 1970s, her dad’s grave in Houston was washed away by a hurricane.
Her organization, pre-pandemic, spent much of its time preparing for earthquake contingencies, before pivoting to become vaccination champions.
In these times of crises, she said, neighbors must lean on neighbors.
“If a building tumbles down, those who watched it fall become our first responders.”
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