San Diego, California – In a Washington suburb, Hispanic and African-American barbers debunk myths about the coronavirus vaccine while cutting hair.
Across the country, a Phoenix university researcher partnered with a company that produces comics that combat Islamic extremism to generate cartoons in Spanish with dance music that seek to disprove conspiracy theories affecting the immunization of Hispanics.
And in San Diego, Hispanic and African-American refugees and activists initially hired to track people’s contacts as part of the campaign to fight COVID-19 are calling those people back to talk about vaccines.
A new wave of multilingual public health announcements has emerged, taking into account the feelings of different communities, entertaining and personal, replacing the typical public announcements on television, radio and social networks, in an effort to counter the misinformation about vaccines circulating among minorities.
“Given the way disinformation spreads on social media, the typical dry ad doesn’t work to counteract it,” said Mustafa Hasnain, co-founder of Creative Frontiers, which publishes comics denouncing Islamic extremism.
The groundbreaking advisories are out of necessity: The virus disproportionately affects Hispanics and African-Americans, but vaccination rates in those communities are half that of whites.
The Joe Biden administration this month launched an advertising campaign targeting communities where there is resistance to vaccines, asking 275 organizations to spread the word about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. There is one ad in Spanish and one geared toward African Americans, narrated by African-origin historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.
It is common to hear rumors that vaccines cause infertility or that they inject government chips into Hispanic and African-American communities, accustomed to battling racism in the healthcare system, which has undermined their trust in it.
“I see a lot of similarities in the violent radicalization of people and the wave of misinformation around the pandemic and vaccines,” Hasnain said. “It is part of the radicalization process, there is a sounding board in which mistrust in authority figures is preached.”
Added to this mistrust are doubts about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires a single dose. The US government has suspended that vaccine until reports that it causes unusual but severe blood clots are investigated.
Millions of doses of the J&J vaccine have already been given in the United States, the vast majority without consequences, or with minor reactions. But the questions stemming from six cases of clots can complicate efforts to convince people with doubts.
Hasnain’s company will launch a new cartoon targeting Hispanics on Tuesday. It was produced with the help of Gilberto López, a professor and researcher at Arizona State University. Lopez says young Hispanics are particularly reluctant to get vaccinated.
The new installment employs hip-hop beats and includes know-it-all uncle Rigo, who shoots baseless versions, which are contested by an affable doctor.
“The pandemic showed us that there is scope for reframing the approach to health c are in our communities,” said Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
Thomas works with Hispanic and African-American barbers and hair salons where vaccine safety is discussed.
“African-American barber shops and salons can be places where conspiracy theories are promoted or science-backed information is offered,” said Thomas, who in the past launched an initiative to educate people about chronic diseases. like diabetes.
At the Shop Hair Spa in Hyattsville, Maryland, outside of Washington, a colorful box next to haircut prices asks, “What is your health concern?” On a red wall there is information about COVID-19.
Barber Wallace Wilson said he understands people’s mistrust of vaccines.
“I also have my doubts for the simple fact that they are an African-American male. When you analyze the story, you see that they used us as guinea pigs, ”he said.
He alluded to a 40-year-old government study in which African-American men with syphilis were tested without treatment so that scientists could see the effects of the disease over time.
Clients like James McRae share his skepticism. But Wilson told McRae that this time things are different because it is not just the US government that vaccinates people. Everyone does it and each person has to contribute their bit.
“I want everyone to be safe,” Wilson said as he carefully maneuvered a razor over McRae’s head, avoiding the chinstrap strips his client was wearing.
McRae agreed, though he said he was leaving everything up to God.
Experts say that many people will definitely discard the vaccine if they have a hard time getting it. Wilson says he has been on a waiting list for more than a month.
Dr. Fermin Leguen, director of the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas, is aware of the importance of words. One agency used an automatic translator for a consiguna and ended up saying on a poster “Enmascarar. Support for. Wash up”. The correct translation was “Wear chinstrap. Keep your distance. Wash yourself.
Leguen, who was born in Cuba, maintains meetings with Spanish-language media after his weekly reports to offer better information to the people.
In San Diego, Ana Castro was one of the contact trackers hired to work with immigrants, refugees, and racial minorities who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Castro says he was aware of the difficulties of the callers. He was taking care of his mother, a Mexican who was bedridden by the virus.
Now she and the others are calling about 10,000 people again to talk about the vaccine and get them to get vaccinated.
“You can have a conversation, which is not the case with posters,” said Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, director of the San Diego State University Institute of Public Health, which created the program with the county health department. “People need to feel that they have reasonable doubts, that they are resolved by people of their culture, in their language.”
One of the first people he called was a man who turned out to have died from COVID-19. Castro spoke with the 81-year-old’s wife for half an hour, during which the old woman told her stories about her husband.
“I’m not just calling for people to get vaccinated,” Castro said. “I also try to ensure their physical and emotional well-being.”
Healthcare experts hope that confidence-inspiring staff will get more people vaccinated.
Bertha Morales had her doubts even though she worked at a Phoenix clinic. Her relatives insisted that the vaccine would insert a chip or that it would make her sick and kill her.
Until his company offered a virtual conference in Spanish that cleared up all his doubts. You have already received both doses.
“I think what changed me was that I wanted to see my grandmother, but I didn’t want to infect her,” Morales said. “It had been so long …”.