By By Brianna Wilson and Tom Szymanski

іVacuna por Pavo!: Preventing Sickness at the Thanksgiving Table

In this season of giving and gratitude, The University of New Mexico Hospital and UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center teamed up with El Mezquite Market, Walgreens, and several other community partners for іVacuna por Pavo!

Hundreds of people lined up at the El Mezquite location on 98th street and Central, the weekend before Thanksgiving. All they had to do was get a flu or COVID vaccine in order to walk away with grocery bags packed full of holiday dinner goodies, including free turkey and pie.

“We got 850 to 900 turkeys,” said El Mezquite Market President and CEO Sergio Bermudez. “There are a thousand families that we see. You can see right now we got a couple hundred people already, and we haven’t even started yet.”

Sergio Bermudez / President & CEO of El Mezquite Market

Bermudez started this tradition 15 years ago, to give back to community members who have helped his business grow since the late 90’s. Each year, he said more organizations pitch in, allowing them to provide more food for local families.

“It encourages people to come and vaccinate,” said Ruby Garcia, one of hundreds of people who arrived hours early to secure a place in line at the event. “They see the free turkey, free pie. I myself, if I see free, I'll come get it.”

El Mezquite Market provided the turkeys and drinks, and UNM Hospital Community Engagement brought a variety of pies to the table. Bimbo Bakeries brought loaves of bread, muffins, and cakes. But the primary goal of this event was to take sickness off the menu.

Headshot of Carmengloria Hulsey
No matter what language you speak. No matter where you're coming from. No matter what color you are. We are here for you.
Carmengloria Hulsey, CCHW, Community Outreach & Engagement specialist, UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

“We care a lot about our health and about other people's health, and then my grandparents, they have other health problems,” Garcia said. “We feel like getting the flu shot is something that is important because it helps them get less sick.”

Carmengloria Hulsey, CCHW, is the community outreach and engagement specialist at UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. She said UNM continues to support this event, year after year, because it allows families to have healthy holiday gatherings. It also helps her team directly connect with members of the community, to build a rapport with them, identify their needs, and talk to them about all the resources UNM Health has to offer. 

“We are here for you,” Hulsey said. “No matter what language you speak. No matter where you're coming from. No matter what color you are. We are here for you. We are going to help you. We are going to give you resources. We are going to help you with your health. We are here.”

To learn more about how you can Stay Healthy for the Holidays, read our previous updates on flu, COVID and RSV vaccinations, here.

Categories: Community Engagement, Diversity, Top Stories