SC CTSI contributes community engagement expertise to guide ongoing vaccination campaigns

John Tibbetts — December 03, 2021

The Heal Together coalition is retooling its successful October vaccination campaign, launching a new effort to help employers and labor organizations boost vaccination rates among front-line workers. SC CTSI helped guide outreach strategies of the coalition, which brings together government, healthcare, business, and community groups.

“During our October events, many individuals in underserved areas of South and East Los Angeles were able to gain access to vaccines in their communities,” said Christian Starks, MPA, Community Engagement Program Manager at SC CTSI.

“Heal Together held pop-up clinics in churches, barbershops, and other trusted spaces, providing vaccines but also other resources such as food and rental assistance in places hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Allison Zumberge Orechwa, PhD, Director of the SC CTSI Programmatic Development and Interim Program Manager, Healthcare Delivery Science.

The 28 Heal Together events held by all partners during October 2021 attracted over 1,780 individuals and vaccinated 910 people.

“Now we want to help employers meet new vaccination mandates, allowing their workers to receive the vaccine at their workplaces,” said Orechwa. “Some industries such as healthcare, childcare, retail and transportation industries require in-person services, but they can have among the lowest vaccination rates.”

SC CTSI staff members have helped tailor vaccination messaging to specific audiences through an umbrella project called VaccinateLA that brings together experts from across USC, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the LA County Department of Public Health Services, local government, employers and hundreds of community organizations.

“We held listening sessions with the community and did research to understand what kinds of vaccination messaging would be most useful and address their needs,” said Orechwa. “The main takeaway is the power of narrative and storytelling in vaccine messaging. We learned that the most effective messages would be hearing personal stories from the vaccinated and messages from trusted people such as doctors and pastors. These messengers can be folks in the community, not only government officials and white coats.”

A production company, Everyone Can Eat, has created a series of unscripted “Share Your Why” one-minute videos, which are testimonials from individuals who describe their motivations for getting vaccinated.

Filmmakers from USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism also created scripted, storytelling videos that provide fact-based information to counter falsehoods about vaccines. View the six-minute "Of Reasons and Rumors” and other videos at 

The videos are shared widely on social media, coalition partners, the California Department of Public Health and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

Heal Together, which emerged from the VaccinateLA campaign, is a collaboration among USC, the Los Angeles Departments of Public Health and Health Services, the City of Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department (LA Civil Rights), Kedren Health, nonprofits, churches, social service agencies and community organizations. 

“In our fight for equitable vaccine distribution, we encourage employers not only to provide time off for employees to be vaccinated away from their worksites, but space at the worksite to be vaccinated,” said Kedren Vaccines Program Director Dr. Jerry P. Abraham. “Our goal is to shift the narrative and provide culturally responsive care where people live, work, worship, play, and go to school. We cannot wait for people to come to us, we must go to them.” 

As of now, the initiative has evolved into empowering and educating businesses, organizations, and other groups on how to plan, implement and promote their own vaccine clinics to ensure employees have convenient access to the shot. The Heal Together coalition has put together a free employer toolkit to help businesses plan a vaccine clinic at their workplace. To date, the team has received requests for 55 vaccination clinics after the employer toolkit was disseminated, and has helped facilitate some clinics at businesses locally. For more information, visit or email


NIH Funding Acknowledgment: Important - All publications resulting from the utilization of SC CTSI resources are required to credit the SC CTSI grant by including the NIH funding acknowledgment and must comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.