Community health groups celebrate education, vaccinations as COVID-19 emergency declaration ends

SAN ANTONIO – Dr. Adelita Cantu, an associate professor at UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, made history by becoming the first person in Bexar County to get the first COVID-19 shot in Bexar County in December 2020. Since then, she’s joined a community-wide coalition to educate and vaccinate the community to reduce COVID deaths.

“It was a circus,” she remembered. “Cameras everywhere, trucks everywhere. It was an experience I’ll remember for my lifetime.”

Cantu’s efforts to help lower COVID-19 infections and deaths continued when she was part of a community coalition called Health Confianza. It was formed by about 30 community organizations joining forces to spread factual information about the virus and offer services to underserved communities.

“Utilizing evidence-based health literacy strategies to encourage vaccine uptick and getting out there and really communicating and building trust with people on the best information and trying to tackle disinformation head on as well as misinformation so that we can continue having a healthier community,” Cantu said about the coalition’s efforts.

The pandemic revealed the limited access some in the community faced, according to Dr. Jason Rosenfeld, assistant professor of global health at UT Health San Antonio.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and exposed disparities that already existed within our city and others in terms of access to information as well as health services,” he said.

On Thursday, the federal COVID-19 Emergency Declaration will end, and it will also bring an end to free tests and vaccines once they run out. But Cantu and Rosenfeld say their job isn’t over because COVID is still in our community.

“It’s just going to be in the community. It’s going to exist,” Cantu said.

Health Confianza will continue with its mission to educate. While it was initially a COVID-centered program, it’s now shifting toward other health community needs, like mental health and diabetes education.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Alexis Montalbo is a photojournalist at KSAT 12.