LONG BEACH, Calif. — Kymberly Jenkins waited this long to get vaccinated — but after seriously juggling her fears of possible side effects, she finally did it.
"I didn’t want to get a blood clot," said the 25-year-old. "I didn’t want to be rushed to the hospital with different side effects, being incredibly fatigued or body aches."
As a hair stylist working out of her home, Jenkins said she comes into contact with unvaccinated clients regularly. She explained that even wearing a mask is starting to feel less protective against the highly contagious delta variant.
“I also hear the stories of people my age in the hospital begging for vaccines before the die on a ventilator,” Jenkins said.
Many people contracting COVID-19 are now younger people, especially those from Black and brown communities. That's why Marlene Montañez is working to dispel false narratives about the vaccine.
Montañez works with the community advocacy group Long Beach Forward, bringing vaccines to low income and minority communities.
"There are Black and brown youth that are eligible, but they’re hesitant," Montañez said. "So really the emphasis of our work is trying to address people’s concerns and create cultural knowledge around the vaccine."
The group figured maybe throwing in a few incentives like cash, gift cards and — most interesting of them all — cannabis will gain the community’s trust.
“[We're] taking something that’s very taboo and using that as a way to engage people to get vaccinated," Montañez said. "Somehow that gives [the community] a sense of trust towards our canvassers who are trying to have those conversations. ”
The campaign, Joints for Jabs, is a collaborative effort between Long Beach Forward and local dispensary Flight on Cherry.
On Saturday, unvaccinated residents aged 21 and over were able to receive either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson shot in Houghton Park in Long Beach. Along with their vaccination card, they were handed a sticker and voucher to cash in for a pre-rolled marijuana joint at Flight on Cherry.
Jenkins explained that she has no shame in her choice to indulge in cannabis, so seeing that as an incentive solidified her decision to get vaccinated.
“It’s a good incentive. It works. It just depends on the person,” she said.
Jenkins is hopeful her friends and neighbors will follow in her footsteps and get vaccinated.