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Lorain County Public Health is building trust with its Latino community to get them vaccinated

photo of the Lorain County Health department
Lorain County Public Health
The Lorain County Health department vaccinated over 200 residents at a clinic this weekend, held in partnership with the Mexican consulate, Sacred Heart Church and El Centro.

Forty-four percent of Lorain County’s Latino population has been vaccinated from the coronavirus, according to the county's Deputy Health Commissioner Mark Adams.

It's less than the 59 percent rate of vaccination in the county as a whole, but still, Adams says it's a great number.

He says building trust with the community has been key.

With the recent federal emergency approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for young children, the county public health department is hosting a vaccination clinic for anyone five and older this Saturday at Lorain High School, which has a large Spanish speaking population.

“With getting the kids 5 to 11 done, many of those parents are going to be driving that piece,” Adams said. “And a lot of those parents have that trust in us, so they're bringing their kids.”

This past Sunday, a vaccination clinic was held in partnership with the Mexican consulate, Sacred Heart Church and the Latino advocacy nonprofit El Centro. Seventy-seven people registered for the event, but 205 people were vaccinated in total, including 31 children between 5-11 years old, Adams said.

To accommodate the needs of younger children who might be reluctant to get poked by a needle, the health department has allowed more time for each appointment and added more nurses.

“Because one of the things that the nurses have said after each of the clinics is that they don't want to lose the care piece that's given to children,” Adams said. “So, they didn't want it just to be the child sits in front of them. They give the shot. The child goes on.” 

Building trust with Lorain’s Latino community took time and effort and was very much guided by El Centro, Adams said.  

The deputy health commissioner reflected on a problem at the start of this year with a person selling an “elixir to cure COVID and this was being spread throughout Facebook pages and the Spanish-speaking population.”

In order to combat that problem, department officials needed more direct ways to communicate with the community.

“There's a lot of relationships that are tied directly to the church,” Adams said. “So, working out new relationships that we didn't have with every single church, working out those relationships with them and then starting to get our clinics into those locations as well.”

Also key, according to Adams, has been breaking down access barriers to vaccine clinics — making clinics easier to get to for those who don’t have transportation and understanding that for many, registering for a vaccine clinic online was enough of a barrier to prevent individuals from getting vaccinated.

So, the health department made some of its clinics walk-in.

“Don't worry about that appointment. Well, that turned into grandma coming in and then calling all the other family members to come in and get a shot as well. And that process is actually still very viable,” Adams said. 

The health department also took the vaccine where it was needed, according to Adams, meaning rather than have a handful of large vaccine clinics, department staff and volunteers have been flexible, taking doses of the vaccines to “smaller churches, to the larger churches, to community centers, to parks to events.”

That has contributed to getting more of Lorain’s marginalized communities vaccinated from COVID-19. 

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