CORVALLIS, Oregon – Oregon State University is stepping up local outreach to improve confidence in COVID-19 vaccines among the state’s Latinx population, which has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and whose vaccination rate is at lags behind other races and ethnicities.
The OSU Extension Service, through its Family and Community Health program at the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, received two grants totaling approximately $ 225,000 to coordinate educational efforts statewide and se focus specifically on Benton, Lincoln, Linn, Hood River and Wasco counties. Teachers from two other extension programs – 4-H Youth Development and Juntos – are collaborating on the project.
Oregon’s Latinx population accounts for nearly a third of all COVID-19 cases for which ethnicity is reported, according to the Oregon Health Authority. About 13% of the state’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latin. As of June 11, the Latinx vaccination percentage stood at 41% – the lowest of any racial or ethnic group. Overall, 64% of the state’s adult population had been vaccinated by that time.
“Our immediate goal is to work with our local and state partners to help minimize vaccine reluctance among the state’s Latinx population by promoting positive messages delivered by trusted messengers,” said Roberta Riportella, manager. of the Family and Community Health Program and Associate Dean of the College. of Public Health and Humanities, which is the principal investigator of the grants.
Over the past year, OSU Extension employees have worked with community partners and local businesses in some counties to provide COVID-19 resources in Spanish. In Lincoln County, extension helped produce urgent video communications in Spanish and Mam – a language spoken by the Guatemalans who immigrated to the Oregon coast. In the Columbia River Gorge, a team of community organizations that included Extension mobilized for the 2020 and 2021 harvests to support migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
Recently, a series of public service announcements began airing on Gorge radio stations. The PSAs were developed by Lauren Kraemer, assistant professor of practice in the Family and Community Health program and the College of Public Health and Humanities, with a community partner using messages aimed at people who have not. been vaccinated. They will soon be broadcast in Spanish.
“Current evidence suggests that the Latinx population of Oregon has limited access to evidence-based vaccine information tailored specifically to their cultural and linguistic concerns and needs,” said Riportella. “In addition, confidence in vaccines is complicated by long-standing medical mistrust, experience of racism in the healthcare system, and significant targeted disinformation, especially via social media platforms. “
According to Riportella, a factor undermining the confidence and uptake of vaccines among the Latinx population of Oregon are barriers to access – inconvenient clinic hours or locations, complexity of scheduling appointments, and limited initial supply. .
The efforts planned under the grant include:
Conduct interviews in churches, vaccination sites, local community centers, and other gathering places to better understand the specifics of vaccine reluctance in Latinx populations. These include determining both the attractiveness of different approaches to content in radio and other media communications and how Latinx populations consume mass media and social media.
Deploy local Latinx browsers – “friendly faces” – to help people sign up for vaccines, work in immunization clinics, and promote pro-vaccine social norms through community outreach.
Engage community partners, members and volunteers of 4-H and Open Campus Juntos family networks in the co-creation and dissemination of linguistically and culturally relevant resources, such as videos for posting to YouTube and Facebook and content for television, radio and social media.
OSU received grants through the Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching & Engagement (EXCITE), an initiative of Extension Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.