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In March, Bronx public charter schools hosted bilingual virtual forums with medical experts from SOMOS Community Care aimed at dispelling myths about the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraged families to get it when eligible.

So far, International Leadership Charter High School, American Dream Charter School, Zeta Charter Schools, Urban Assembly Charter School for Computer Science and Public Prep Charter Schools — have participated in the new effort to boost vaccine rates and overcome any hesitancy that might exist.

“Getting the vaccine is safe — that’s our message to our school community,” said Melissa Melkonian, founder of The American Dream Charter School. “The Bronx has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and these forums are about being part of the solution one family at a time. Vaccine hesitancy among the communities we serve is real and understandable. But we believe by sharing critical medical information, we can effectively overcome hesitancy and help all of our kids — both in public charter schools and district schools — get back to some semblance of normalcy.”

The Bronx remains one of the areas hardest-hit by Covid-19, but it still has one of the lowest rates of vaccine inoculation across the city. A recent survey found that 8 % of Bronx residents have decided against getting a vaccine, and 49 % indicated that concern about side effects was a significant factor in their decision.

“Ever since the pandemic’s start, SOMOS has worked day-in and day-out to dispel the COVID-19 misinformation that is spreading throughout our communities, particularly communities of color and communities for which English is not their first language, and undermining the health and safety of our neighborhoods,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, chairman and founder of SOMOS Community Care. “We are committed to working alongside members of the community – like the educators and families of charter schools across the Bronx – so that our children and teachers can return to school safely. Nearly 80% of the adult population in New York State now qualifies for the vaccine, and it is our job to ensure that everyone who is eligible knows how to get their vaccine, has the answers to any questions or concerns they may have, and receives the vaccine safely and comfortably.”