In San Luis Obispo County and across the nation, agencies and organizations are working to address the health disparity between Hispanic and white people while increasing the COVID-19 vaccination rate among the Hispanic community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 63 percent of known COVID-19 infections in California are among the Hispanic community, while the same population accounts for 29 percent of vaccinations.
The CDC also reports Hispanic and Latinx individuals are two times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than white people in the United States.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health Information Officer Michelle Shoresman said bridging the gap between the vaccination rates of minority groups and the white population is one of the highest ongoing priorities for the department.
The Public Health Department has developed a number of initiatives to keep the Latinx community and other minority populations informed about COVID-19 preventive measures, testing and vaccines throughout the pandemic.
In a statement to KCBX, Shoresman said, in part:
‘We continue many of these initiatives today, with a continued focus on sharing information, but also on planning and scheduling vaccination clinics for these populations… Our farm worker task force also continues to meet to plan additional events and outreach.’
The department also works closely with other organizations to provide give-aways of masks and hand sanitizer and dispel myths about the vaccine. Shoresman said the Public Health Department issues all COVID-19 materials in both English and Spanish.
Now, Facebook has a national initiative underway — in partnership with the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — to help increase vaccinations in the Latinx community through the messaging platform WhatsApp.
The initiative is active in SLO County. Anyone can send a text in Spanish through Whatsapp to find out where to get a vaccine in their area. They can use the app to arrange a free ride with Uber or Lyft to get the vaccine. People can also get answers to frequently asked questions from the CDC.
Ashley Quintana works on community engagement efforts with Facebook. She said the app is really popular with Spanish-speaking communities and Facebook is hoping to provide people with the right information on a platform they are already using heavily.
“I use it to communicate with my family in Mexico. So many of my friends use it day to day,” Quintana said. “We hope that this will be a great application for people to have it all in one place. I think that’s the key thing — to make sure people have the right information and resources to get vaccinated.”
Facebook says it has no estimate for how long this initiative will be active.