Citing Covid-19’s “outsized impact” in Baltimore’s Latino community, the city is deploying CASA to assist with education, outreach and messaging.
The Board of Estimates is set to approve tomorrow a nearly $157,000 one-year contract for the immigrant advocacy organization to “enhance bilingual and bicultural public messaging and in-person outreach to educate Limited English Proficient Latinos about how to prevent the virus, where to get tested and demystify myths that prevent this community from seeking help early on.”
Under the contract, requested by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, CASA will also also facilitate registration and vaccination appointments.
Board documents note that while Hispanic residents make up just over 5% of the population, they have represented a disproportionate number of cases throughout the pandemic – “one in eight Latino/Hispanic residents has contracted Covid-19.”
The document said the contract agreement, which started in March, “is late due to contract and budget revisions.”
The effort mirrors similar campaigns across the country to get information about the coronavirus and vaccines to disproportionately impacted minority communities.
“A white guy from NIH is probably not going to be as effective by far in convincing somebody from a minority community that this is the kind of science they might want to trust,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health told the Associated Press.
For African Americans, Collins said, there remains “a legacy of mistrust” after the infamous Tuskegee experiment, when Black men in Alabama were left untreated for syphilis as part of a study that ran from the 1930s into the ’70s.
Under the contract, MIMA will work with CASA to recruit community organizers to serve as “Community Messengers/Promoters.”
Targeting the hardest-hit neighborhoods, the promoters “will guide community members to trusted sources of information and resources, and identify community members eligible for vaccination through intensive canvassing efforts.”
Armies of Influencers
Social media messaging is part of a growing U.S. state- and city-based movement using local influencers to reach the most vaccine hesitant at a neighborhood level.
Health authorities in Chicago, Oklahoma City, San Jose, California, New Jersey and elsewhere are running similar campaigns.
There were rumors “that police were arresting people without a mask, or that people get magnetized when they’re vaccinated,” Carlos Cornejo told the Associated Press.
Some argue, meanwhile, that these “soft” approaches to combating the spread of Covid may have already run their course.
“I’m highly skeptical you can get enough appeal to the remaining 30% of adults who after all this time have not gotten the vaccine — it’s a lot to ask of an influencer,” said Jeff Niederdeppe, co-director of the Cornell Center for Health Equity, told the AP.
More likely to tip the scales, Niederpeppe said, is an increase in private and public employers and organizations requiring vaccinations of their workers and patrons.