Latino Group Providing Equitable Vaccine Access
May 12, 2021
Ashley Boarman
A doctor and Latino community member discuss vaccination

More than 200,000 individuals in Sonoma County, Calif., are now considered fully vaccinated, but many more will need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Among those still unvaccinated include some in the county’s Latino population.

“Vaccine science is complicated for everyone. Our community has questions and it’s our responsibility to address them,” said Glaydon de Freitas, CEO for nonprofit Corazón Healdsburg.

The organization, whose mission it is to build a more just and compassionate community, hears from community members with practical questions about the efficacy, side effects or contraindications related to the vaccine.

“Statistically, Latin-Americans are among those hardest hit with COVID-19 in Sonoma County due to existing racial and socioeconomic gaps. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have equitable access to these lifesaving vaccines,” declared de Freitas.

“Most of our community has been eager to get the shot(s), and we’re working extra hard to connect those remaining with it. We’re committed to making sure our clients have all the information they need to make their own informed decisions about the vaccine,” he said.

Sonoma County, a coastal county with just shy of 500,000 residents, is about 26.4% Latino.

De Freitas says many community members have questions about whether they can get the vaccine if they’re pregnant or have hypertension, for example, or if they need to wait a certain amount of time after recovering from COVID-19. After the pause on the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine there were some new questions, he said, but others were pleased when the single-shot option was again given the green light by the CDC.

“We’ve worked closely with the community through this pandemic and several devastating wildfires. Our community trusts us and we take that seriously. When they have questions about the vaccine or how to make an appointment, we want our staff to have all the information,” said de Freitas.

“We’re grateful to Sutter and Dr. Prystowsky for giving us the most up-to-date details about the vaccines currently available,” he said.

Addressing questions and creating access

Dr. Brian Prystwosky stands in his office hallway in his white doctor's coat

Dr. Brian Prystowsky

Brian Prystowsky, M.D., a pediatrician with Sutter Medical Group of the Redwoods, led the Corazón team’s virtual training this month. Around 20 staff and external contractors participated on the call and were able to ask common questions they hear about vaccination.

In terms of those who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated, Dr. Prystowsky said that there are those who are neither committed to getting the shots nor adamantly opposed—they simply have questions.

“Sometimes the last barrier to overcome is comfort. Listening to concerns with an open mind—and heart—is a great entry point,” Dr. Prystowsky said.

“We’re doing what we can to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, particularly in Latino communities,” said Andrea Garfia, a Sutter Health community benefit coordinator.

Sutter, as a not-for-profit integrated health system, is working with Corazón Healdsburg to carve out COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the Luther Burbank Center in Sonoma, one of Sutter’s vaccination sites in Northern California.

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