ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando’s St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church on Saturday will serve as a state-run COVID-19 vaccination site.

For parishioners, it’s a big deal.

What You Need To Know

  • St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church serving as 1-day, state-run vaccination site

  • Officials: About 500 appointments scheduled by late Friday; vaccine supply based on registrations

  • Parishioner: “To be able to able to host it right in a community-centric environment … is a blessing”

“I actually worked the registration,” parishioner Vu Nguyen told Spectrum News 13 on Friday, referring to sign-ups last weekend. “I witnessed first-hand what it meant for the parishioners and the people of our church to be able to host this event.”

St. Philip Phan Van Minh is a Vietnamese church that does all services in Vietnamese, with some also in English for younger members.

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County and Florida Division of Emergency Management will administer vaccinations there from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to people who registered in advance.

Orlando Police issued a traffic advisory for the event, saying that drivers should avoid the area, if possible.

Eligible to receive vaccinations at that site include people 65 years old and over, plus school personnel, firefighters, and law enforcement officers age 50 and over.

Behind the effort are state Reps. Anna Eskamani and Travaris McCurdy, each of whom represent part of Orange County.

Among those who have been helping with community outreach are Shally Wong, a Hong Kong native who works as special assistant and community liaison for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, and Ricky Ly, a Vietnamese American who lives in East Orlando.

“I think this is the first, if only, event aimed at increasing the participation of the Asian American community,” Ly said in a text message to Spectrum News 13, “so this is awesome.”

Eskamani noted efforts to make vaccinations available in underserved communities, where language barriers, transportation problems, or technical issues might otherwise prevent residents from getting vaccinated.

She also pointed out that her legislative district includes Orlando’s Mills 50, formerly known as Little Vietnam, which continues to thrive on the strength of Vietnamese and other Asian businesses.

“I felt pretty passionate about being more intentional and outreaching to the Asian-American community specifically,” Eskamani told Spectrum News 13 on Friday.

Nguyen, 25, an Orlando native and UCF graduate, says he has attended St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church his entire life. He said seniors at his church told of unsuccessful efforts to secure appointments at other vaccination sites, including at pharmacies that have been administering the vaccine through state and federal programs.

UCF graduate Vu Nguyen has been a parishioner at St. Philip Phan Van Minh Catholic Church his whole life. (Courtesy of Vu Nguyen)

“It’s harder for them to understand what’s going on and to get information and be able to get access to the care they need,” Nguyen said. “For us to be able to able to host it right in a community-centric environment where their questions can be answered, where we can provide access directly to the care they need, is really a great blessing.”

Eskamani, the state representative, mentioned language obstacles and “technology gaps” for older residents. She said translators would help at the church Saturday.

By late afternoon Friday, she said, about 500 appointments had been scheduled. She said the site would carry only the number of doses that residents signed up for in advance.

Nguyen expressed relief for fellow parishioners. He said he and others helped with registrations last weekend as members of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement.

“If it’s coming from their own community,” he said of vaccine recipients, “it’s comforting not only from a health perspective but from a spiritual and mental perspective.”