PHILADELPHIA -- As one of Philadelphia’s first vaccine ambassadors, Dominai Taylor’s capacity for listening is equally as important as her compassion for those she listens to.
During her weekly visits to city-operated shelters to speak about the COVID-19 vaccine with people experiencing homelessness, Taylor, 38, who is currently experiencing homelessness herself, has listened closely as others have shared their fears and beliefs.
“Some of them say they don’t want the vaccine because of the Tuskegee [experiment]; they’re afraid that the government would put something inside of them they can’t get rid of,” she said. “Other people feel like they can heal on their own. And I get some people who say ‘I had it already. I kicked it before, I’ll kick it again.’ ”
In those moments, Taylor will often share her own story of losing her grandmother to COVID-19 last year. She’ll tell people what she learned during her training about how the vaccine was created, how it works, and what it actually does to the human body.
“We try to bring the wall down that they’ve built up,” Taylor said.
She may not always convince people to get the vaccine in the moment, but she hopes the conversations she has and the resource materials she provides plant a seed.
Since March, Taylor has planted more than 80 such conversational seeds and helped more than half a dozen people experiencing homelessness get vaccinated. For her, the most rewarding part is seeing kids get the vaccination.
“They be mad about that needle, but then they get their little candy and sticker and stuff and they’re happy,” she said. “This one little girl walked up to me after and put her little sticker on my sweatshirt. That made me smile.”
The Vaccine Ambassador Program, which is funded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES Act), engages people who have lived experience with homelessness to share information about the vaccine and their personal reasons for getting vaccinated with others who are experiencing homelessness and may have distrust in the medical system.
Ambassadors are paid $15 an hour, and those they sign up to get vaccinated receive a $50 American Express gift card.