Vaccinations and voting info this Saturday at Atwater’s

Bonita Clark, member of the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Black Nurses Association, and other healthcare workers will administer free flu shots this Saturday, Oct. 3.

BY KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg residents will be able to receive free flu shots this Saturday, Oct. 3. The event, a partnership with the Pinellas County Health Department and the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Black Nurses Association (SPCBNA), will provide the vaccinations from 10 to noon. The event will take place at Atwater’s BBQ & Soul Food, 895 22nd Ave. S.

Bonita Clark, a family nurse practitioner and member of the SPCBNA, said the organization decided to partner and get involved in the effort because there is a great need for the services, especially now.

“We are in a critical time of a global pandemic where any and all preventative measures to combat respiratory illness needs to be made available to the community,” Clark said. “The Department of Health has partnered with SPCNBNA for many years, offering preventative and primary care at various health fairs and events.”

Clark, a family nurse practitioner and a nurse for 20 years, was recently elected president of the SPCBNA. She said she got involved with the organization during her training to become a nurse, and she loves what it stands for: “ to serve as a voice for black nurses and diverse populations ensuring equal access to professional development, promoting educational opportunities and improving health.”

She said working with the county health department was a natural fit for the organization to bring important medicine to the underserved.

“It’s very important to get vaccines,” said Clark. “Getting vaccinated is the first step to prevention against viral, blood-borne and respiratory illnesses. These vaccines are safe and effective. The side effects are minimal, usually soreness at the injection site or low-grade temperature following vaccination.”

Clark, the director of nursing at a local skilled nursing facility, also said she is concerned about how diseases like the flu and Hepatitis-C disproportionately impact people of color.

“There’s a significant disproportion of preventable, treatable, and curable illness in the African-American community for various reasons,” she said. “African Americans have faced discrimination in healthcare, which has led to a distrust of physicians and other practitioners. Secondly, social and economically disadvantages create a barrier to receiving services.”

Along with the vaccinations, attendees will also receive voter registration information if they choose to receive it. They can register to vote, change their address if needed, get information about voting by mail and absentee ballot, or find out where the polling places will be in their area.

While the SPCBNA does not have a political mission, organizers believed it seemed like a great tie-in as people would already be there to get vaccinated.

“The SPCBNA does not endorse any political party,” Clark stated. “However, we are encouraging the residents of the community to exercise their constitutional amendment right to vote.”

Those planning to attend the event do not need to bring insurance information and will only be asked to fill out a form for the health department. There is no charge for the vaccines.

A team of nurses will be on hand to administer vaccines. Clark said although the event is from 10 to noon, nurses will stay until the community is served.

“If they come, we will provide the service. No one will be turned away. We will serve as many as will come.”

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