Vaccine effort reaches out to Latinos, BVU

Friday, April 9, 2021

The local COVID-19 vaccination effort is beginning to reach out for harder-to-reach populations, including minorities and college students.

A clinic is being set up for local Hispanic and Latino populations on Sunday, April 18. at AEA. SALUD multicultural health coalition is helping Public Health to reach those residents.

SALUD board member Emilia Marroquin was invited to speak during Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ live streamed press conference Wednesday on reaching the state’s multicultural population with COVID-19 information.

Gov. Reynolds noted that the Hispanic/Latino population, estimated at 200,000, is Iowa’s largest ethnic group. Confusion, lack of access to health care or language barriers may be holding the group back from obtaining vaccine, she said, noting that 60 percent of that population are saying that they do not have enough information on where and how to get vaccine. Reynolds noted that vaccination is open to all, free, regardless of immigration status. Being vaccinated will not affect that status.

Marroquin noted that in places like Storm Lake that are home to many cultures, healthcare must be responsive to each of the communities within a community, treating them in the way that works for them.

Minority groups need to hear information in their own language, and need to hear from the trusted leaders they are familiar with, she said.

Gov. Reynolds termed the outreach “vaccine equity,” and said that while vaccination rates are beginning to improve among Iowa Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans, there is more work to do.

Buena Vista County Public Health coordinator Julie Sather touched on the same issues while speaking to county supervisors this week, stressing the importance of “working on giving the same message to everyone.”

With vaccine now open for all adults, attention is turning to college students. Recent “upticks” in positivity rates in Iowa and nationwide can be attributed to the 18-24 age group,” Gov. Reynolds said. While young people getting COVID often may only have mild symptoms, they risk spreading the virus to others who may not be so fortunate, she said, noting that state efforts to get vaccine to students on Iowa campuses is ramping up this week.

In Storm Lake, Buena Vista University is working with state and local public health officials, hoping to vaccinate students before they leave at the end of the academic year just weeks from now, Sather said.

The university qualifies as a vaccine provider itself, and public health would assist its nursing staff in giving shots if needed, she said.

She is also concerned about getting vaccine into the arms of students at colleges around the state and beyond, before they come home for summer, bringing virus exposure with them.

It is anticipated that vaccine use will be cleared for younger people in the months to come. If that happens, there will be a push to vaccinate students before schools open in the fall.

Supervisors were concerned with the potential for rising COVID numbers. Sather said that with spring break and Easter gatherings, she assumed there will be some increase in the next couple of weeks. “Easter was the first holiday that people felt more protected as more people have been vaccinated,” and likely saw more gatherings with less protections, Sather felt.

The lower case numbers may not be telling a complete story, she warned, as the amount of people being tested has decreased. She encourages anyone who has been exposed to take advantage of TestIowa, which is still offering free testing at the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center site. People without symptoms who have been exposed but do not get tested “are typically the people who spread it,” she said.

Sather also feels that some people are shying away from vaccination, “holding out” for a certain type of vaccine. Both the local public health administrator and the governor stressed that all the vaccines are safe and effective, and that people should use the first one available to them.

Gov. Reynolds noted that Iowa leaders have been told that “significant reductions” in supplies of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine should be expected in the state through the end of April.

This week, BV Public Health has been working on additional vaccination for the ag/manufacturing sector, and a booster clinic at the county fairgrounds was planned for Thursday for those who had primary doses there earlier. About 400 additional Tyson workers were to be vaccinated today, and the first open clinic for anyone over age 18 is planned for Saturday at Storm Lake Elementary. As of earlier this week, about half of the 550 doses of vaccine available for that event had been scheduled. The county hopes to schedule a clinic for county workers next week.

According to Gov. Reynolds, Iowa has utilized 83 percent of vaccine doses it has been allocated, the 10th best rate in the U.S. The percentage of Iowans fully vaccinated as of this week is ranked 9th.

However, Reynolds spoke out against “vaccine passports,” saying that she has encouraged voluntary actions throughout the pandemic but not mandates.

Around the country, businesses, schools, transit and local governments are considering the so-called passports - digital proof of vaccination - while conservative politicians have opposed such measures in what the New York Times calls a “cultural flash point.”

“I believe in it enough to get it myself, but I respect that it’s a personal choice,” Reynolds said of vaccine. She said Iowa has to take a stand against vaccination passports, either through legislation or executive action.

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