Two events this week will look to address equitable access to vaccines, and the concerns of concerns of communities of color.

'Brave Spaces' dialogue

The YMCA of Montclair’s “Brave Space Community Dialogue” — the latest in a series of community conversations on diversity, equity and inclusion — on Feb. 25 will “amplify the voices of communities of color to address and ease issues of fear, hesitation and access around the COVID-19 vaccine and health equity,” the YMCA said in an event announcement.

“We will create a community of care, transparency, trust and information,” it said. 

The event will be held at 7 p.m., and residents can register at

Panelists will include Dr. Art Calise, emergency department director of Mountainside hospital; Dr. Zaza Cohen, intensive care unit director of Mountainside hospital; Dr. Valérie Allusson, chief medical officer and chief quality officer of Mountainside hospital; and Wesley Tahsir-Rodriguez, chief operating officer of the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center. The discussion will be led by Laura Quiros, YMCA of Montclair’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee chair. 

In addition, the YMCA of Montclair offers COVID-19 testing at the Park Street YMCA. There is no cost to patients. More information is available by contacting MedRite at, or YMCA senior membership director Lisa Kievitat at 973-559-9281 or

NAACP panel

The Montclair Chapter of the NAACP is hosting “Covid-19 Vaccine Panel Discussion: Let’s Talk Facts, Get Vaccinated” on Friday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. Hosted by the Montclair Branch NAACP Health Committee, the virtual panel discussion is an effort to "empower, promote awareness and diminish the level of concern regarding the COVID-19 vaccine distribution," the NAACP said in an announcement. 

Participating on the virtual panel will be Dr. Shereef Elnahal, CEO of University Hospital and Montclair resident Dr. Chris T. Pernell, University Hospital’s first chief of strategic integration and health equity officer. Pernell, who recently lost her father due to complications related to COVID-19, also spoke at a township-run town hall last month about overcoming barriers to vaccination. 

Also attending will be Montclair NAACP First Vice President Roger Terry Sr., a member of the Montclair COVID-19 Task Force; Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.; and Essex County Health officer Maya Lordo, who will discuss the registration process, identify testing sites and public accommodations currently in place. 

“Due to growing concerns about health disparities and the general lack of trust involved, forums such as this will empower residents so that they are better equipped to make an informed decision about their own health,” Montclair Health Committee Chairperson Rosita Dotson said.

The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP to the event, contact and see more information at

— Information provided by the Montclair YMCA and the Montclair NAACP