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How Virginia Improved Vaccination Rates Among Latinx Residents

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

After a tough vaccine rollout earlier this year, Virginia had a breakthrough this past week. Latinos became the second-most vaccinated group in the state, with at least 40% having received at least one dose. And more Latinos are being vaccinated than hospitalized now. So what has caused this uptick in vaccinations? Shanteny Jackson (ph) is a community health worker for the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, and she joins us now. Welcome.

SHANTENY JACKSON: Thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So community clinics have been credited for getting more Latinos vaccinated there. Can you tell us - what is it about these clinics that they do differently?

JACKSON: So the first point of action connects community agencies with community services. That means that agencies such as the Virginia Department of Health and other local clinics provide services to community members in the location where they live. So we meet them where they are.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I imagine also there are people who speak Spanish. I've been to vaccination clinics with Latinos who don't speak English. And some of them, especially at the mass vac sites, might not have, you know, language services.

JACKSON: That's a second important aspect of what the community clinics provide, and that is language accommodation, meaning that our staff is bilingual and provide the adequate information and resources.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what this makes me sort of understand is that specifically for the Latino community, it is about access and not necessarily about hesitancy.

JACKSON: In order for us as Latinos to receive the service, we have to be able to be familiarized with the community or the service provider, establish long-term relationships with them and at the same time be comfortable with that environment.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Many Latinos have jobs that don't give them time off. They work in these essential worker positions where they don't really have the sort of time to go and find out where there might be a mass vaccination site or sort of, you know, wade through bureaucracy online to sort of register somewhere. And so this makes it easier, I guess, too, because of the kinds of jobs that they have.

JACKSON: Absolutely. We heard that families, especially head of households, are working outside of town. And when they return home on Friday, they want to be able to find a location that is accessible over the weekend. We also heard that parents who have children at home would rather have testing options in the evenings so that they can actually have a family member be able to support or watch their children. So we had those options when we were communicating to the population that we were serving.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the reason I wanted to do the story when I read about it is because we've been following, obviously, the story of the Latino community during this pandemic and how they have disproportionately been affected in terms of infections and deaths. And so this is a significant success story. Do you think other states can replicate this?

JACKSON: Absolutely. We have to care and know about our communities. The second thing that we need to consider, what are the factors or the actual barriers that are preventing these communities from accessing? And one thing that I think was very pivotal during this process was identifying or reaching those individuals in their communities.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Shanteny, if you can just give me one anecdote - because you do work in these communities - of maybe one person and how they got vaccinated.

JACKSON: A older senior who was a little reluctant to take this - the vaccine because she thought that it was going to affect her health. And after actually not experiencing any symptoms, she was able to actually get other family members to vaccination sites.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That Latino network that always works so well. That is Shanteny Jackson, a community health worker in Richmond, Va. Thank you very much.

JACKSON: Thank you, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.