The Idaho Immunization Coalition is traveling through southern Idaho to administer COVID-19 vaccines in rural areas, with its primary focus on the Hispanic community.
The leading cause of death within the state’s Hispanic population is currently COVID-19, health officials said during a statewide media briefing held on Tuesday. Thirteen percent of Idaho’s residents are Hispanic, but Hispanics make up 16% of COVID cases in the state, according to Christine Hahn, administrator of the Division of Public Health. That statistic could be attributed to increased face-to-face jobs among the working population, which can add to increased transmission of COVID-19, Hahn said.
Heather Gagliano, a volunteer for the Idaho Immunization Coalition, has been a registered nurse for 10 years. Since early summer, she has been traveling throughout southern Idaho conducting vaccine clinics and participating in conversations with community residents about vaccine information, concerns and questions.
The coalition recently wrapped up an effort in Pocatello, Gagliano said.
The coalition has worked with food banks, schools and other community establishments to make it easier to access the vaccine for those who choose to receive it.
Gagliano worked with a Spanish-speaking health equity coordinator to hand out flyers with vaccine information. Gagliano said she and the coordinator were able to participate in useful dialogue with residents that led them to get vaccinated.
Hesitancy members of the Hispanic community had regarding the vaccine included personal health concerns, vaccine safety, social media myths and fear of needles, Gagliano said.
Gagliano said the reason the dialogue and clinics were so effective was because they incorporated a trusted person who was already known in the community. She said the coalition can now better connect with other organizations to understand the needs of the region’s Hispanic population.
“It’s so vital for us to have partners that are trusted in the community,” she said. “After people got vaccinated they had this confidence that came over them.”
Of the 74.7% of ethnicity records the state has in the immunization information system (IRIS), 8.4% identified as Hispanic or Latino, according to Sarah Leeds, manager of the Idaho Immunization Program. Leeds said 11% of the state’s Hispanic population is vaccinated.