Less than half of Oregon’s adult Hispanic population had had their entire COVID-19 vaccination by the spring of 2021, posing a dilemma for the state.
Rachael Banks, the Oregon Health Authority’s director of public health, told OPB in April that the gap was “an intolerable inequality.”
As seen on this billboard, the California Department of Public Health uses culturally appropriate icons like luchadores to promote vaccinations and booster shots to Latino residents of the state.
Only 45% of Hispanic or Latino individuals had had the first two doses, which are still thought to be the most effective at lowering the risk of serious illness or death, as of June 1, 2021. That was 14 percentage points below the state’s white population.
That difference is now only 4 points. In contrast to the 76% of adult white residents of the state who had received the first two doses of the vaccination as of September 2, 72% of adult Hispanics had. (Those who identify as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, Black, or Asian have the greatest immunization rates, all exceeding 90%.)
Veronica Leonard, the director of health and wellness at the Portland-based Latino Network, expressed her excitement that the 80% [first-dose] goal had finally been reached.
Her organization was one of the Latino-focused community groups that criticized state officials for establishing qualifying standards in the first half of 2021 that made it difficult for Latinos to receive early immunizations. She said it was effective. The Oregon Health Authority’s officials modified their approaches.
Leonard remarked, “I think they really owned up to the reality that there was really a lot more that could be done. Instead of coming to us and essentially telling us, “This is our idea,” they actually made it more of dialogue among all of us on an equal playing field.
Community organizations gave the example of how it would be more successful to run walk-in vaccination clinics at locations that already offer reliable health services rather than ones where people had to make an appointment at mass vaccination sites like the Portland Convention Center. It was made easier for Latinos to obtain the photos by changing where and how according to Leonard.
According to Banks, “We were able to support over 170 community-based organizations, some of which may be faith-based or culturally particular, and they were really able to approach people from a holistic perspective.” “Access to vaccines, but also assistance with seclusion and quarantine, or other foods or other things, especially when people were ill.”
Banks and Leonard asserted that the disparity in vaccination rates would not have narrowed without the drive generated by groups like the Latino Network, the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Network, Centro Cultural, and numerous other such nonprofits and churches around the state.
“Ultimately, the Latinx community rose up and overcame so many challenges to getting vaccinated,” Leonard said. “That is why we met our objective of 80% of the Latinx population immunized.” And that’s essentially why we’re in this situation. Without the support of the community, we cannot succeed.
Large gaps still exist in some counties despite the state’s Hispanic and Latino population making great strides toward vaccine series completion. In the counties of Coos, Sherman, Gilliam, Wheeler, and Curry, the difference between the immunization rates for white people and Hispanic people is still greater than 20 percentage points. Despite not knowing why those gaps continue to exist, Banks of the Oregon Health Authority said she was delighted the data they have gathered is detailed enough to indicate to them where further work needs to be done.
The Latino Action Network’s Leonard stated that raising awareness of COVID-19 and routine childhood immunization rates among Hispanic and Latino youngsters is their upcoming public health task.
Banks stated, “We learned a tonne about what it takes to eradicate health inequalities. In order to achieve specific equity goals, working in conjunction with local public health, and putting culturally unique solutions into action, it is necessary to strengthen the voice of the community and community-based organizations.
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