The COVID-19 pandemic has hit US Latinos harder for a number of reasons: many Latinos work in service or care jobs that can’t be done remotely and expose them to more people; many live in multi-generational households; and many local governments don’t provide adequate support to their communities. To deal with these conditions, community-based organizations stepped up to get people the resources they need. Now they are taking the lead in getting their communities vaccinated.
Latino Health Access, based in Santa Ana, California — one of the most COVID-impacted cities in Orange County— is a long-time Hesperian partner. We have learned a lot from their creative and community-centered approaches to improving health, and now from their experience in helping people get the vaccine. Their promotores (community health workers), have set up small vaccination stations in neighborhood spaces like grocery stores, laundromats, churches, and even alleys to make sure that community members are informed about and can access the vaccine. The promotores also host mobile vaccination clinics during the evenings. They accept walk-ins so that working people can get vaccinated after their shifts without having to make an appointment.
Many of the promotores are community members who began working for LHA after losing their jobs and witnessing the pandemic’s devastating effects on their neighborhoods. Their connections with the community are why they are uniquely positioned to develop innovative ways to do health outreach. For example, for the Memorial Day weekend, several promotores (and community volunteers) built a float on the back of a truck to drive around a community with one of the lowest vaccination rates. The float, named “The Vaccine is Our Hope,” was accompanied by promotores dressed as a virus and a vaccine — and a cumbia band! This creative intervention caught the attention of community members and got them to talk to the promotores about getting vaccinated much more effectively than a phone call.