Covid Vaccinations Among American Latinos Rise Thanks To Community Awareness | Coronavirus

THEiliana Borrero balanced her sleeping baby on one leg as she sat and waited the 15 minutes that a nurse asked her to stay in case she had any reactions to her first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.

Borrero, 38, was accompanied by her nine children, three of whom also received the blow.

They were sitting in a room next to a hallway of the sprawling Prince of Peace Church in Flowery Branch, a suburb about 75 miles northeast of Atlanta. It was a recent Sunday afternoon; a mass in Spanish had just started in the large neighboring chapel.

Borrero’s decision to get the shot put her in a national trend that has been going on for several months and bodes well for Latinos, the country’s largest vulnerable population. As the United States experiences a wave of cases linked to the highly infectious Delta variant, just over one in four vaccines nationwide now goes to Latinos, even though their share of the US population is only by 17.2%, according to the CDC.

No other racial or ethnic group has been vaccinated at rates so far in excess of its share of the population. The figures are based on 59% of all people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, as not all states report this data, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Yet the trend is reversing accounts that began late last year, suggesting that Latinos were reluctant to seek the vaccine, even though they are twice as likely to die and nearly three times as likely to be. hospitalized because of the virus.

Borrero was one of more than three dozen people who were also vaccinated at the church, with the help of bilingual outreach workers from a Georgia-based nonprofit called the Latino Community Fund (LCF) and nurse Leah Buchanan, who works with CORE, an international crisis response organization. The two are working on the ground in Georgia to get Latinos vaccinated, with financial support from private and public sources, including local, state and federal agencies.

The partnership between the two organizations and the church is emblematic of the driving force behind the increase in Latin American immunizations nationwide: the government and some private funders supporting local and nonprofit organizations, which in turn. tour draw on a large network of community relations ranging from places of worship to football coaches and cashiers in local markets.

The idea, said Genesis Castro, network and program manager for LCF, is to “get to places where people congregate” and identify and remove as many barriers as possible to help them get along. get vaccinated – including speaking their language, if necessary.

It’s a public health approach that has already been successful in reaching historically marginalized populations, said Priti Radha Krishtel, co-founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, an international nonprofit that works on equity. in health. “Time and time again – as seen with HIV or hepatitis C – when you develop community strategies and community-based, culturally appropriate content you will achieve better results,” she said. .

In the case of Covid, “the initial increase in vaccinations concerned people who had access to them. The infrastructure has favored a certain segment of the population, ”said Angelina Esparza, associate vice president for health equity at the CDC Foundation, which has provided $ 30 million in mostly federal funds to more than 170 community organizations. working on immunization of underserved communities across the United States. “In order to increase immunization rates in marginalized populations, you need to increase awareness and education, and look at accessibility issues,” she added.

Working in Maryland, Dr. Michelle LaRue has taken steps as simple as scheduling vaccination events from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. to reach people after work, and to “move mass vaccination sites to the community.” “.

“We wanted to make sure the protocols we put in place didn’t create barriers,” said LaRue, who heads the health and social services department of CASA, an immigrant advocacy and services organization.

LaRue pointed to a local government funded cartoon public service ad that featured “the abuelinaA grandmother who spoke Spanish and urged her community to get vaccinated. The effort came from focus groups with Latinos. “We asked, ‘Who are you listening to? »», She declared. “It turned out to be a local person – not Fauci or Biden. It was the pastor, or the abuela. “

In the months following the vaccine rollout earlier this year, his organization created a team of five Latinos focused on vaccine promotion. An information line went from receiving several hundred calls per month to receiving the same amount in a week.

In North Carolina, Edith M Nieves López, a pediatrician, trained people hired by community organizations on “how to overcome misconceptions” about the vaccine. At the same time, “word of mouth is the best promoter you can find,” said Nieves López. “Once your neighbor is vaccinated and you notice that it isn’t a zombie, you say, ‘That may not be true.

“I used to get more questions about things like microchips and fertility affected by the vaccine,” she said. In recent months, “I don’t hear so much misinformation.”

Nieves López also helped community members in his area complete vaccine registration forms. “They cannot read or write,” she said. She posts her cell phone number online and receives SMS and WhatsApp messages about vaccination sites.

Reaching Latinos at the high rates seen in recent months is the result of “continuous feedback loops,” said Carolina Escobar, deputy director of site development for CORE. “We pay attention to the smallest details… If we find that a registration system is not working, we organize more drop-in events. “

Or, seeing that Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccination sites, “you notice who’s on the other end of the phone. Do they speak spanish? Are the people who need the rides tech-savvy? Volunteers or community organizations help plan the rides, she said.

In a county in Georgia, his organization has teamed up with football coaches to educate Latin American families about vaccines. “The coach is a figure of confidence. He can say: ‘We have information in Spanish,’ ”she said.

The Kaiser Family Foundation last week released a report digging deeper into CDC data, including state-by-state analysis. The increase in Latin American immunization rates began in the spring, said Samantha Artiga, director of the foundation’s racial equity and health policy program.

If the trend continues, “it means there are increasing levels of protection in the Hispanic community – which is so important because they have been disproportionately affected by the virus,” Artiga said.

Yet, she added, “this does not change the underlying socio-economic indicators that created the risk. They have jobs that are more likely to be exposed to the virus – jobs that can’t be done at home and don’t include other mitigation strategies like wearing masks. “

Leonardo Velásquez, who was at Prince of Peace Church for his first dose, works in commercial construction. He recently moved to northern Georgia from Washington DC, to live with his brother.

The 37-year-old said he “had doubts” about the vaccine. “I thought it wasn’t working,” he said. Then his mother left Mexico to visit the two brothers. “She said I should get the vaccine, for my children – so as not to make them sick,” he said. In the last few months that he has been in Georgia, his brother’s daughter, who is 12, has fallen ill with Covid. His school has closed due to an increase in cases. She has since been vaccinated.

The church is Catholic; a recent survey found that between March and June, acceptance of the vaccine among Hispanic Catholics rose from 56% to 80% – more than any other religious group. Velásquez discovered the church’s vaccination site through a cousin, who was vaccinated there. “Having people who speak Spanish helps,” he said. “You feel more comfortable.”

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