For certain communities, new variants of COVID-19, like omicron, can feel like déjà vu as new streams of misinformation arise and spread as we learn more about them.
As we near the two-year mark of this pandemic, that continues to be a particularly difficult issue in communities of color, where inequities interfere with that community’s ability to get verified information.
“It’s something cultural,” said Leticia Trujillo, who lives in the greater Fresno, California area. “Mexican people believe more what their friend says. ‘Oh no, I don’t want to get vaccinated because I got the vaccine and my arm got swollen. I don’t want to get the vaccine because my brother got super sick.’”
Trujillo works for a group called Cultiva la Salud, a nonprofit that works to get accurate information and resources to Latino families in the COVID age.
In Fresno County, 52% of Latinos have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a stark contrast from the 75% of people statewide. It has led to her Latinos accounting for more than 60% of COVID deaths in Fresno County, even though the demographic only makes up 53% of the population.
“It is important to vaccinate,” said Trujillo. “I love my community. I want everybody to get protected, so for me, it’s so important.”
“When you have families that are very disadvantaged, they don’t necessarily have technology at home. They don’t necessarily have WiFi available,” said Genoveva Islas, executive director of Cultiva la Salud.
To help reach these underserved communities, Islas’ group has partnered with several other organizations to spread accurate information about the COVID-19 virus and vaccine.
Trujillo canvases public areas like supermarket parking lots, talking with people and handing out flyers.
Radio Bilingue, a Spanish-speaking radio station that attracts 100,000 unique listeners each week, hosts talk shows with public health officials and accredited experts to help inform people who might not have internet access.
“You’re looking at a vulnerable population that doesn’t have a lot of assets,” said Islas. “They don’t want to get further in debt, and so, one of the apprehensions that we had to counter are people who thought the vaccine costs money. Education is the best thing; empowering communities with information, I think, helps keep them safe and allows them to self-advocate.”