With a population of 197,000 people, Imperial County is a COVID-19 vaccination success story in California, having one of the best vaccination rates in the state despite being one of the poorest regions most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the context of this phenomenon, experts met at a press conference offered by Ethnic Media Services and the California Department of Public Health's Vaccinate All 58 initiative to highlight key data on vaccination success in Imperial County.
"They've done an excellent job of getting people vaccinated, they should be very proud of this achievement, it's not only the highest in the state, it's actually one of the highest in the country ?in vaccination rates?" acknowledged Timothy Brewer, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California.
The increase in the vaccination rate in Imperial County has not only protected thousands of people but has also reduced the number of deaths caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, after the region had very high hospitalization and mortality rates at the beginning of 2020.
Rosyo Ramirez, deputy director of the Community Health Division of the Imperial County Public Health Department, commented that "as the vaccination rate increased, we also noticed that hospitalizations and death rates began to go down." This is because county health officials relied on private providers, health clinics and community organizations.
However, Imperial County, like many other regions of the country, is experiencing a third wave of infections, said Rosyo Ramirez, noting that currently 49.5 percent of its population has tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Likewise, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) made great efforts to distribute information through flyers, posters and advertisements. In addition to campaigns such as "Help Us Help Team", "I Got Vaccinated", "Booster All the Way", among others, with the objective of increasing the number of people inoculated.
Community organizations responsible for COVID-19 vaccination success in California
"The federal government never stepped forward to provide a single mask, a single disinfectant, a single thing, it did nothing, on the contrary, it dehumanized the experience of crossing the border," said Luis Olmedo, executive director of the Valley Civic Committee. However, he commented that some time later the Department of Public Health joined in to provide resources.
Olmedo also commented that "the philanthropic sector stepped up and gave us a lot of resources" which allowed us to create campaigns to address the crisis on both sides of the border and also manage to register people who did not have the technology to register through the digital platforms that the state provided since the COVID-19 vaccination began in 2021.
Luis Flores, co-organizer of the Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition (IVEJC), pointed out that "the high vaccination rates have to do with politics" because Imperial County residents are mostly Latino and represent more than 86 percent of the population, while Caucasian conservatives represent a much lower number.
Flores also noted that political preferences were instrumental in the increased vaccination rate in Imperial County, commenting that "in early 2022, political ideology was the strongest predictor of vaccinations, rather than race or ethnicity."
Daniela Flores, co-organizer of the IVEJC, commented on the importance of making visible the problem faced by the Latino and farmworker communities, as language barriers, health insurance, transportation, technology and distrust in the government adversely influence the possibility of receiving inoculation.
He also pointed out that community organizations were responsible for registering agricultural workers to receive the vaccine.
In addition, Daniela Flores stressed the importance of continuing with the same efforts for the COVID-19 vaccine booster campaigns, because despite celebrating the success of the application of the first doses of inoculation, the government and organizations cannot lower their guard.
Vaccine myths affect decision to receive inoculation
Despite the efforts of health organizations, the government and the media, there are myths that influence the decision of families to receive the inoculation and there are theories that increase the doubts and fears of the communities.
Heart, lung or blood problems, as well as infertility and other conditions are circulating on various digital platforms undermining confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has denied them.
"The biggest challenge is misinformation," Brewer commented, because for him people who have not yet been vaccinated have decided who they trust for information.
For more information about the vaccine visit https://covid19.ca.gov/es/vaccines/.
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