Good Information And Trusted People Critical To COVID-19 Vaccine Equity
COVID-19 vaccine supply now exceeds demand. However, vaccine availability does not automatically equal vaccination for all people in all places. In Pierce County, efforts are underway to make it easy and desirable for all communities to get the vaccine. In Yakima, an effort called the Partnership for Food Security offers valuable lessons for improving vaccine equity.
Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney shared an important insight from the partnership about encouraging vaccine participation, “You need to give people good information. Then you need to appeal to their sense of responsibility to their families and other community members and the economic bottom line. Those are the kinds of messages that resonate with our residents. Not, ‘oh, you should be so afraid, and you need to save yourself’. Something more along the lines of ‘here is how you can keep supporting your community’.”
“We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach or message when it comes to vaccination or the pandemic as a whole”, said Jon DeVaney of the Washington State Tree Fruit Growers Association, another member of the partnership. “Our growers and workers have been going to work every day. That is their experience. And many of them have stayed COVID-free or contracted the virus and experienced minimal consequences. That does not discount the seriousness of the virus, but you are not going to appeal to them based on fear.”
According to Yakima-based physician and partnership member, Dr. Raul Garcia, the economic and cultural realities of Yakima County demand a locally relevant approach to managing the pandemic and mobilizing the vaccination effort. “When you follow the science, you have to start with the communities that have been hit the hardest and certainly our region has been one of those. And what you are going to find in those communities are that equity issues are a root cause to both their high COVID transmission rates and will also be a barrier to vaccination.”
The Partnership for Food Security is a voluntary association of individuals and organizations working together to fight COVID–19 virus attacks on the people and communities who plant, grow, raise, feed, transport, store, process and bring us our food. The partnership’s goal is to vaccinate 25,000 people per week. Although launched in Central Washington, the partnership receives support from experts in Pierce County.
Dr. David Hirschberg, Founder and Catalyst for the RAIN Incubator in Tacoma, has been working with the partnership, “What has really made this work is that we have everyone working in their own lanes and not really caring who gets credit. For us, it is easy to vaccinate people, but all the other stuff is not what we do. Working together we can cover all of the bases that need to be covered and we can all stay focused on the part we do best.”
Jim Waldo, Vice President at Gordon Thomas Honeywell in Tacoma, has been central to bringing the partnership together and making connections. “Our success in Yakima has been completely reliant upon grassroot efforts. It is neighbors and leaders calling and talking to one another. Word of mouth and being able to get vaccinated at a place that they know and trust. Allowing each family member within multi-generational families to receive it all at once. We listened to the community, and they knew exactly how to reach out to one another.”
“I believe people have a choice related to vaccination and we should honor that choice”, Yakima County Commissioner Amanda McKinney pointed to the central challenge for vaccine participation now that supply exceeds demand. “But it should be a choice they can make with good information and with trusted people they can discuss their options with.”
The Partnership for Food Security will soon extend its vaccine program to Pierce County and the rest of southern Washington. Meanwhile, PIERCE COUNTY CONNECTED’s final round of funding focused on advancing, aligning, and bridging gaps in governmental relief dollars to support accurate, culturally relevant COVID-19 vaccine information and access supports to be facilitated by trusted service providers and networks across communities in Pierce County.
Plenty of vaccines are available for farmworkers and Latino residents, but not everyone is getting them (Yakima Herald, April 26, 2021)
COVID-19 Vaccine: Myths and Facts (video, Washington State Tree Fruit Association)
Hundreds of Tri-Cities food processing, farm workers turn out for COVID vaccines (Tri-City Herald, April 11, 2021)
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and Yakima Valley Community Foundation are thought partners with the Partnership for Food Security.
RAIN Incubator received funding through PIERCE COUNTY CONNECTED.