Knoxville organization aims to promote vaccines, build trust among minority communities

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As more people are set to become eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Tennessee next week, a local organization hopes to ensure more people are comfortable receiving one.

I AM the Voice of the Voiceless executive director and founder, Vivian Shipe, said there’s “real fear” within some minority communities. She believes their new initiative can help save lives. It aims to reach people within the Latino community, refugees, immigrants, indigenous people, and more “to make sure they are included and educated about the vaccine.”

Before the pandemic, the organization largely focused on feeding the homeless, securing resources for those in need, and helping victims of domestic violence. Though the circumstances are different, their mission is the same.

“He tells you to be bold and courageous,” Shipe said, “your job is to help somebody else on this earth.”

The initiative is called “A.R.M. Yourself.” It stands for address systemic issues, remove fear and concerns, and make a decision and live. It starts with an education campaign, through brochures and testimonial videos. The goal is to offset misconceptions and build trust among those who may feel the shot, or the vaccination site, could be harmful.

“Right now we’ve got to remove the fear and we’ve got to educate. We’ve got to get people in front of them that look like them and say I’ve got the shot, or it’s ok to get the shot,” Shipe said.

As for public participation, Shipe says she needs help printing and distributing brochures. She’s also urging business owners and community members to offer locations to deliver the printed material. “Tell us where to put it, we’ll bring it to you,” she added.

Ultimately, she hopes to partner with medical centers and community groups to ensure safe spaces to vaccinated some communities. “We don’t have time to stop and say who are you, where are you from… the only thing we need to be saying is have you have your shot yet? And if you haven’t had your shot yet, let me help you get it.”

The “A.R.M. Yourself” initiative runs through June 30.

If you’d like to help, you can call 865-617-8353 or email

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