IDAHO — The Idaho Immunization Coalition has taken steps to reach out to people in rural areas to learn more about any questions or concerns they have about getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Heather Gagliano, a registered nurse and volunteer with the coalition shared their strategy at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare meeting on November 16.
“Since early Summer, the Idaho Immunization Coalition has been traveling around the southern part of Idaho, conducting listening and mobile vaccine clinics in communities of color and rural areas. Our main focus has been the Hispanic or Latinx community. This is was all possible due to multiple donations grants, foundations, contracts, and donations. We go out, and we wanted to provide COVID-19 vaccines, and we tried a variety of different vaccine clinic methods and really wanted to see what was most effective.”
During the meeting, State Epidemiologist, Dr. Christine Hahn said that COVID-19 death rates were high among the Hispanic population compared to non-Hispanic residents.
"Both in 2020 and 2021 in the Idaho population overall COVID was the third leading cause of death while in Hispanic population was the leading cause of death in both years," she said.
2020 data showed the average age of Hispanic individuals who have died from COVID-19 was 71 compared to non-Hispanics, which was age 79.
Gagliano also explained other initiatives included drive-thru vaccine clinics and offering vaccines at local events.
“The most successful type of vaccine clinic that we did, is we would partner with trusted community organizations and prior to the vaccine clinics we would actually go out into the community and talk to community members about their COVID-19 vaccine questions," Gagliano said.
They collaborate with school districts, nonprofits, food banks, and trusted sources in the communities. Throughout their outreach work, some of the concerns they heard were about the safety of the vaccine, needles, and misinformation on social media.
“We could individually answer the particular concern that the person had with the myth and just took that time,” Gagliano said. Gagliano said that they also have someone available to translate and share the information in Spanish. Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program also shared vaccination rates among the Hispanic community.
“They represent 11 percent right now of our vaccinated population where we are seeing at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine,” Lee said. “When we look at additional doses, booster doses or third doses for immunocompromised people, there is a slightly higher boost rate for people identifying as not Hispanic compared to Hispanic vaccinations.”
Gagliano explained that their outreach efforts are working.
“The Idaho Immunization Coalition has felt this model of going out, prior to the clinic educating, answering questions, partnering with trusted community organizations is really successful. It has been successful for us, and we want to bring it to all of Idaho and really expand that out,” she said.