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Lack of target outreach of COVID-19 vaccine distribution missing mark on Latino, immigrant communities

A Latino and Immigration advocacy organization in Central Pennsylvania says they receive about five calls per day about where and how they can register.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment online is already hard for some.

“There is a real digital divide that the Coronavirus has exacerbated by putting everything online. That means that we are excluding people who don’t use the internet," said Josie Flor Sapunar from Wearecasa. 

Now imagine not being able to speak the language. That is the problem that some Latino and immigrant communities are facing in the Commonwealth.

"We have to take into account the language in which we’re doing the outreach. and we have the registration materials. if everything is only in English--that means people who don’t speak English-- or who can’t read or write English are not included in this decision.”

Casa—A Latino an Immigration advocacy organization in Central Pennsylvania says they receive about five calls per day about where and how they can register to get the vaccine.

In a press briefing this morning, Senator Art Haywood said the local involvement is going to be critical in tackling this issue.

"I'm not expecting everyone in Pennsylvania to trust the secretary of health to make a decision. we’re going to need people in local neighborhoods with connections, trust to help us get the vaccines into arms," said Senator Haywood. 

FOX43 reached out to the department of health on ways they are helping these communities.

Here is their full statement:

What has the commonwealth done to help immigrant communities or communities who don’t speak english well— to guide them through the process on how and where to make an appointment for the vaccine? 

"To date, the commonwealth has leveraged the 877 Health Hotline to assist non-English speaking individuals with finding a location to be vaccinated and how to schedule an appointment. The staff help with determining the phone number of the provider so that the individual can directly call and schedule their appointment if there is availability at that time."

 If it’s something that you haven’t done yet— Are you planning to? If so, how?

"We are actively working on plans to expand our outreach to at-risk and non-English speaking Pennsylvanians so that they can navigate the COVID-19 vaccination program easier. Currently, we have a targeted communications strategy with trusted community partners to message vaccine information to these individuals. We partner with various organizations across the commonwealth including the Muslim coalition, Black coalition of Pittsburgh, faith-based community partners across the commonwealth, the special Olympics team, Latino Connection, Latino Community Affairs Commission, Penn State REACH and the DOH COVID-19 Health Equity Response Team, Legislative Black Caucus, Casa San Jose. We also have interagency working groups with the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT) and hospital and health system communications teams.

Additionally, we do translation services. All commonwealth agencies have a translate feature allowing individuals to view the website in 109 different languages. This can be accessed by clicking on the translate button and choosing a language in the top right-hand corner of our websites. Right now at the department we translate vaccine documents into Spanish, Chinese and German. All of our press releases are also available in Spanish. All press conferences are available in Spanish and ASL.

In the near future, we hope to expand these efforts to include more targeted efforts for elderly, rural, and non-Internet-using Pennsylvanians respectively. We also plan to further modify our vaccine provider map to continue to make it more user-friendly. As the allocation of vaccine from the Federal government to Pennsylvania increases, we will push out more information updating Pennsylvanians."

The State Department also provided resource links: 

The COVID-19 Vaccination Program website:  https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/Vaccine.aspx

This sub-site has eight sections of content for Pennsylvanians to learn more about the following topics:  

  • How and when to be vaccinated;
  • Our interim vaccination plan;
    • They have the ability to submit a form asking questions about the plan as well;
  • The vaccine distribution data and locations;
  • Vaccine safety information;
  • Information necessary to learn before being vaccinated;
  • Vaccine FAQs;
  • Vaccine resources both from the commonwealth and Federally; and
  • Information about insurance coverage.

ESPAÑOL

El programa de vaccinación para el COVID-19 lo puedes conseguir en la página directamente abajo.

Cuando entres a la página asegurate de apretar el botón en la esquína de arriba que dice "translate" y selecciona "español" para que la página traduzca la información al español. 

https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Vaccine/Pages/Vaccine.aspx.

La página de web tiene ocho secciones de contenido para que las personas que viven en Pennsylvania aprendan más sobre estos temas:

- Cómo y cuando se pueden vacunar.

-El plan de vacunación provisional;

  • Cualquier persona con dudas relacionadas al plan de vacunas, puede enviar un formulario haciendo preguntas sobre el plan.  

-Los datos y ubicaciones de distribución de vacunas. 

-Información sobre la seguridad de las vacunas.

-Información necesaria de lo que debes aprender antes de ser vacunado/a. 

-Preguntas frecuentes sobre vacunas.

-Recursos de vacunas tanto de el estado como federal. 

-Información sobre la cobertura del seguro.

Si no hablas inglés y cumples los requisítos para la vacuna, puedes llamar a la Línea Directa de Salud 877 para encontrar un lugar para ser vacunado y programar una cita.

Información adicional sobre la vacuna del Covid-19: 

Vacuna del COVID-19 - WellSpan Health