A Face-to-face, Family-to-family, Friend-to-friend Approach To COVID-19 in Pierce County
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department held a vaccination clinic on Key Peninsula a couple weeks ago where they vaccinated eighteen people and saw that as a success.
She asked many questions and got good information and then made her decision when she felt like it was an informed one for her.
“In the beginning you expected to vaccinate 300 or so people at each clinic, but that just isn’t where we are now. It is a different situation and we and our partners are no longer working with the ‘early adopters’, but rather individuals with various perspectives and whom I believe are still on their ‘vaccine’ journey”, says Marcy Boulet, the Community Liaison/Community Focus Coordinator for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD).
“I know a woman who just got vaccinated the other day with quite a bit of hesitancy after an eight-to-nine-month journey of considering her options. She felt like the vaccine was rushed. She wanted to wait for FDA approval. She asked many questions and got good information and then made her decision when she felt like it was an informed one for her.”
I think it is important not to lump all of those who are vaccine hesitant into the same bucket.
Marcy believes this woman represents a lot of people in our community: people who are not fundamentally against vaccination but who believe personal choice is very important, people who want to make that choice in their own time and through their own process, people who have concerns about the vaccines for whatever reason.
“I have even heard from several people of instances where individuals have gotten vaccinated but did not tell their families for fear of the backlash,” says Marcy. She emphasizes that people need good, straightforward, and scientific information, sometimes many times over. She adds that it makes a difference to listen carefully and empathetically to people’s concerns, “I think it is important not to lump all of those who are vaccine hesitant into the same bucket.”
Also shift our focus to eliminating the inequities that many communities experienced pre-COVID, that were only exacerbated with the pandemic.
For this reason, as well as the overall impact of the pandemic on communities, many public health workers, health care professionals, and community-based leaders are advocating for an “overall health” approach in areas of Pierce County where vaccination rates are much lower.
“We have spent the last 18 months almost solely focused on COVID care, testing and vaccination,” said Sarah Dryfoos-Guss of MultiCare. “And we’re at a point now where we need to continue to offer vaccination opportunities, but also shift our focus to eliminating the inequities that many communities experienced pre-COVID, that were only exacerbated with the pandemic.”
We need to stay the course with vaccine opportunities but perhaps not lead with it.
The Prairie Ridge Community Coalition and White River Families First support the health and human service needs of individuals, youth and families in their area. Coordinator Mary Beth Holmes says, “This issue is just so divisive in our communities. Many advocates for vaccination have faced really nasty backlash. We need to get back to being for and with all members of the community by not solely focusing on vaccination.”
Mary Beth believes COVID-19 vaccination is an essential part of overall health in our communities, but now, “it is time for us to make vaccine education and outreach ‘one’ aspect of our approach and to pair it with other health, social, and educational services. We need to stay the course with vaccine opportunities but perhaps not lead with it.”
The best strategy is face-to-face. People who know one another. Family-to-family and friend-to-friend.
Many community-based groups are organizing ‘casual and connected’ events that do not center on vaccines but bring more holistic services and information. The events celebrate back-to-school, community moments, and moments with an overall community health focus. And if people want to get vaccinated while they’re there, they can.
The Children’s Home Society of WA on the Key Peninsula offers its community tools to raise healthy, happy children. Key Peninsula Family Resource Center supervisor Gina Cabbidu says, “We need to continue to find the right spokespeople in these communities who are trusted and share the same values and perspectives of our community members. Why did they choose vaccination? It is their message and perspective that has the best chance of connecting with others.”
Beth Ann Johnson of the North Pierce County Community Coalition agrees. The coalition mobilizes people and resources to promote the health and well-being of youth and families in the Fife, Milton, and Edgewood communities. Beth Ann discovered, “The best strategy is face-to-face. People who know one another. Family-to-family and friend-to-friend.”
The whole reason we are doing this work is that we care about our neighbors, and we want to all live in a healthy community.
Mary Beth Holmes sums up a motivation shared by most organizations working in Pierce County, “The whole reason we are doing this work is that we care about our neighbors, and we want to all live in a healthy community. We have to find some common ground and deal with this reality that has turned all of our lives upside down. A good way to do that is to build trust by acknowledging and addressing other needs and concerns beyond COVID.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect large numbers of Pierce County neighbors, Marcy Boulet asks us to stay positive and to remember, “We have made great progress. We need to take a moment to appreciate our work, our resiliency, and one another. While we do that, we need to continue to explore both community, overall health, and solution-focused strategies. I think we can do all of that at the same time.”