INDIANAPOLIS — Even though state health officials say 43% of Marion County has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as of mid-May, the Marion County Public Health Department reported less than 20% of Indianapolis’ Asian, Latinx and Black/African American residents had received their shots.
“It was a lot of myths on the vaccine, like for example they’re gonna change their DNA, or like for example they’re gonna put a chip in their body,” said Virna Diaz, executive director of the Latino Health Organization.
“The hesitancy is coming in about not having enough information about the shot, especially people that have health complications,” said James Wilson, CEO of Circle Up Indy.
“When the primary language is either French or Creole and there’s not much support for translation of services and programs within their native language,” said Kendra Nowell of CAFÉ Indy, “if you do not know about the services and programs that are available because it’s not there in your native tongue, then you can’t even get to that point of it.”
Overcoming language and cultural barriers with verified information while providing access to free COVID-19 shots is the goal of a $1 million grant program announced by the City of Indianapolis and county health department. The money will be distributed across 86 organizations.
This past weekend, a multi-lingual COVID-19 hotline received only 50 calls and a popup clinic targeting the same demographic vaccinated just 19 people.
“We are gonna provide information, education on community faith basis here in Marion County and try to educate the community and try to increase the vaccinations in the Latino community,” said Diaz, whose office received $18,000.
“We got $12,500, and we plan to use the money directly in the community by hiring people for operations for the peace festival as we give our vaccinations at the event,” said Wilson, whose summer festival is set for July 10. “Community Health Network is actually bringing the vaccinations as they are my title sponsor this year, so we’re registering everybody at Community Health Network and doing the vaccinations and the follow up, the COVID follow up, and not just the vaccination shots but also a whole other array of health needs, especially for the minority community.”
CAFÉ Indy received $18,000 to educate and vaccinate what it says are under represented communities on the east side.
“We have two community engagement coordinators who go directly out into the community. One is Haitian, one is West African, and they do speak fluent French and fluent Creole to inform the community about what we have at CAFE in form of programs and services ,” said Nowell. “Today they’ve already started translating a lot of the fliers that are out there, getting communication about a lot of the events that are taking place this weekend, and they will go directly into that community starting tomorrow.”
Monday night, Dr. Caine will ask the City-County Council to modify its COVID public health orders to permit fully vaccinated residents to take off their masks and increase capacity at many public sites throughout Marion County.