COVID-19 vaccination effort reaches underserved communities

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Horizonte host Jose Cardenas discussed vaccine distribution to underserved communities with Tomas Leon, the interim CEO of the Equality Health Foundation.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services vaccine dashboard, more white people have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine than any other race. Trends were similar with regards to testing.

“We’re building off of our experience with the COVID testing where we saw the disparities happen and what was happening was we didn’t have enough access points for testing in diverse, underserved communities. Now, we’re experiencing similar challenges in terms of the distribution system. The large pods were great and it reached a lot of people, but it wasn’t reaching the people who were disproportionately affected by this pandemic,” Leon said.

Leon points out there are a lot of barriers when accessing a COVID-19 vaccine. For example, having to register for an appointment online, the language barrier and the location of vaccination sites. There’s also the barrier of hesitancy.

“We now have the vaccines in the heart of the communities. Now, we have to deal with the perception and the historical issues, especially with the African American community, around trust and confidence with the vaccines. Then, you have lack of information or not enough information getting to people to understand the risks, the benefits and some of the myths,” Leon said.

In order to combat that mistrust, Leon says the Equality Health Foundation is putting on a public awareness and community education campaign. They’re sharing the stories of diverse voices and spreading them through social media.

“The message is important, but the messenger is just as important. We’re doing that in English and Spanish on social media,” Leon said.

The Equality Health Foundation also partnered with Telemundo to do a town hall on the vaccine. They’ve also engaged the community through virtual talks featuring conversations about the vaccine.

Tomás León, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Strategy, Equality Health

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