Nelly Jiménez: Get the COVID-19 Vaccine to Protect Your Family, Community!


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Nelly Jiménez knows how difficult it is to suffer from severe COVID-19 illness.

Her husband was hospitalized with COVID after getting pneumonia in both lungs.

She wanted to protect herself and her family, so she did her research about the vaccine and decided to get it early on.

Jiménez also wanted to set the example because Latinos in her local community look up to her.

She’s relieved she got her shot.

“I feel safe. I feel much better and I’m more comfortable,” Jiménez said.

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A Venezuelan Immigrant Active in Pennsylvania’s Latino Community

Jiménez emigrated from Venezuela 23 years ago to Chester County, Pennsylvania.

She is the Executive Director and CEO of ACLAMO, a nonprofit that provides educational programs and social services to Latinos.

When COVID-19 first hit, Jiménez was grateful to be able to do her work for the community from home.

“When they told us that we had to close, I had to adapt like everybody else. My adaptation was probably a little less dramatic in the sense that I have a home, I was able to keep doing my job in my house. I was privileged in that sense that I was able to really work from home while we were trying to make decisions about what our community needed,” Jiménez said.

Jiménez also changed how her organization communicated with people by switching to many social media events instead of in-person.

“Right away, we started doing a lot of Facebook Live, communicating with people, because I saw a lot of gossip on Facebook and I was scared about people getting the wrong information,” Jiménez said.

But amid her organization’s successful pivot to online events, Jiménez suffered a personal setback.

Her husband got sick from COVID-19.

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Husband Got Sick with COVID-19 & Motivated Her

Early on the in the pandemic, Jiménez’s husband became severely ill with COVID-19.

“My husband got sick with COVID and it was very traumatic,” Jiménez said. “He got pneumonia in both lungs and ended up in the hospital. I think for me, that was the breaking point.”

Because of hospital restrictions to keep people safe from infection, Jiménez wasn’t able to see her husband when he was very sick.

Nelly Jiménez: Get the COVID-19 Vaccine to Protect Your Family, Community!

“Emotionally, it was very hard to leave him in the hospital. I still remember driving to the hospital, to the emergency room, and they wouldn’t let me in. They told me, ‘You have to go.’ I remember sitting in the parking lot for three hours straight crying because of the frustration and the pain of leaving the person that you love alone, sick, and unable to breathe normally,” Jiménez said.

Thankfully, her husband recovered and is doing well.

Still, the experience changed her life and inspired her to be more careful with COVID.

“I think that’s why for me, it made me more aware and more sensitive to people and to be more curious about COVID and how it has affected people’s lives because it touched me personally. Thank God, my husband survived and is well. But I think that experience definitely marked my life,” Jiménez said.

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Learning About the COVID-19 Vaccine & Getting Her Shot

When the vaccine clinical trial data was first released, Jiménez got to work learning as much as she could about it.

“I was able to read and to research and do a lot of work to try to talk to a lot of doctors. We had a platform of the Facebook Live that we were doing in my organization, so I was able to invite doctors that were actually treating COVID patients in the hospital to come and talk to us in my community in Spanish. I was able to get very educated about the impact of the vaccines,” Jiménez said.

Jiménez especially wanted to learn about the vaccine misinformation that was circulating on Facebook and other social media channels so that she could keep her fellow Latinos informed.

“It was very important to really educate myself on the myths that you heard in the beginning from the media, or different platforms, or people just talking about things that they didn’t know,” Jiménez said.

As soon as the vaccines became available to the public, Jiménez couldn’t wait to get in line.

As a community leader, she wanted to set a positive example for other Latinos.

“I am a community leader and people look after what I do and what I say. I wanted them to see me going and getting the vaccine. I did videos and I put it up for people to see me getting vaccinated. My Latino community has been very highly affected by COVID, so I wanted to make sure that they knew the vaccine was in our toolbox to help us fight against this virus that has affected us all so much,” Jiménez said.

Jiménez was able to get her vaccine in March 2021.

She got the Moderna vaccine from a local pharmacy and didn’t experience many side effects besides some pain on the second day.

“The second, it was a little challenging. But you know, the next day, I was up at six in the morning distributing food to our communities. So I think for me, I have a responsibility with my community,” Jiménez said.

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Doing Vaccine Outreach in the Community

After getting vaccinated, Jiménez wanted to help inspire others in her community to do the same.

“I do a lot of outreach. I’m in the streets doing food distribution and some of the people have questions or have heard myths that weren’t true,” she said.

“I think we need to give people the information, the accurate information, the scientific information and let them know that it’s okay to sometimes be scared, but it’s important not only to protect us but to protect the people that we love, the people that are around us.”

She believes that giving people patience and facts is more effective than ostracizing them for their opinions.

“We have to understand that some people react, and they want to be on their own page. I didn’t want them to feel threatened or denied because I wasn’t kind or didn’t give them information and give them their own time to understand that this is important,” Jiménez said.

Nelly Jiménez: Get the COVID-19 Vaccine to Protect Your Family, Community!

She also hopes that Americans will understand that having access to the vaccine is a privilege that many other countries don’t have.

“Because I’m coming from Latin America, originally from Venezuela, and I have family members in Venezuela and other countries around the world, it is so sad to see people dying from COVID and people telling me, ‘We cannot get the vaccine here,’” Jiménez said. “We take things for granted. How privileged we are, to live in this wonderful country that has given people the opportunity to get vaccinated.”

Now that she’s vaccinated, Jiménez feels much safer.

But she’s still keeping up her safety precautions to keep herself and others safe from COVID.

“I feel free, I feel good, I feel safer. But I am also very responsible in how I follow the preventive measures that are going to keep me safe together with the vaccine,” Jiménez said.

Jiménez understands that people are hesitant because information about COVID is often being updated and changing. She hopes that people will look to the CDC and to local health departments for guidance.

“I think the reality is, the information with COVID has changed and shifted so fast that people can’t keep up. What hasn’t changed is the accuracy, the safety of the vaccine, and the fact that if you get the vaccine, you’re not going to end up in the hospital on oxygen and dead,” Jiménez said.

“We know that the people who ended up in the hospitals are those who have not been vaccinated. Please look for information in the right places with accurate information, scientific information, and get vaccinated.”

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This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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