Fortunately, not all hesitations about the COVID-19 vaccine are political. With the right approach, it is much easier to allay genuine concerns about safety and efficacy than to change a stuck partisan perspective.
That a substantial portion of eligible Americans who have so far refused to be vaccinated lend themselves to reason and persuasion has become clear as vaccination rates have increased in response to the increase in the delta.
One of Sonoma County’s biggest success stories has been among Latinos, who have seen vaccination rates rise dramatically since February. Latinos went from 11% of residents who received at least one dose of the vaccine to 24%, editor-in-chief Martin Espinoza reported. It is much more representative. Latinos make up 27% of the county’s population.
This success is the result of a concerted campaign that proves a point we made in an August 18 editorial (“Don’t belittle the unvaccinated; reason with them”): it may be more effective to address the vaccine. hesitating with reason, accurately information and empathy only with anger, shame and contempt.
Sonoma County’s successful campaign has been multi-faceted, reducing disparities in access to vaccines with pop-up clinics, lowering cultural barriers by ensuring bilingual staff at clinics, and decreasing reluctance to be vaccinated by sending outreach teams in the community.
Yecenia Gonzalez, a community health worker who is part of the outreach team, said she sees the need for better education while working as a contact tracer and case investigator during the winter wave.
“We just saw the need to reach out to educated people before they become a positive COVID case,” she said. “A big part of the reasons people got COVID was because they didn’t know how to prevent it. “
Responding calmly and authoritatively to concerns and misinformation can help overcome hesitations in Gonzalez’s experience. She spoke to people concerned that vaccine development and approval has been rushed. They were reassured when she explained that the vaccine method had been under study for years and that no steps were overlooked during the trial studies and approval process.
Money from Kaiser Permanente, the county’s largest health care provider, helped fund the campaign. Kaiser gave $ 5 million in Northern California to promote vaccine education, staff, and translation in pop-up clinics and outreach efforts in remote areas. Kaiser’s efforts also included funding a county-wide campaign to build confidence in the vaccine in the African American community.
Recent national surveys have found that vaccination rates among black Americans have steadily increased after considerable initial hesitation, in large part due to numerous outreach and education efforts similar to those that have been so successful in County of Sonoma.
Although there were strong racial disparities early in the vaccine boom, vaccination rates between races leveled off. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 70% of black adults, 71% of white adults, and 73% of Hispanic adults received at least one dose.
Vaccines will soon be authorized for children between 5 and 11 years old. Giving them doses will require parental buy-in, which means that persuasion must continue in order to save more lives. Respectful, compassionate and honest education efforts work.
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