SOLANO COUNTY, Calif. — Two friends are reaching out to the Latino population across Northern California to share the word about the COVID-19 vaccine, using their personal experiences and their church to boost their message to as many people as possible.
Alejandra Guzman, an ER Technician in Fairfield, and Jeffrey Barrios, a COVID-19 survivor in Davis, are members of San Francisco Zion Church. As part of a church outreach effort, they’re reaching out to fellow Latinos and other church groups who still have questions about the vaccine.
“A lot of the people in the community… because of lack of awareness or because of misinformation, they are not really willing to accept the vaccine,” Guzman said.
The outreach effort is pretty straightforward. They either reach to groups themselves or groups reach out to the church, then Guzman and Barrios use information from the hospital Guzman works at, the CDC, the FDA, and people who've gotten the vaccine to help deliver information on the coronavirus vaccine.
They also use their backgrounds and experience with the virus to boost that message even further.
“I’ve been able to witness from the beginning of the pandemic where only a few people would come in to now at the point that… there’s a lot more people who are coming in,” Guzman said.
Barrios made it his personal goal to spread awareness about COVID-19 and help put an end to this pandemic after he and his family caught the virus in 2020.
“Even though we did everything right, we hand sanitized, we made sure we only go out only for essential things, it still got to us,” Barrios said.
The symptoms left Barrios and his family fatigued and riddled with headaches and body aches. He said it was even hard to breathe at times and that everyday routines became a challenge. He said he and his family intend to get vaccinated when the time comes because they want to protect their loved ones from the virus and get life back to normal.
Community groups, healthcare providers, and even religious sectors are expected to be utilized to help get the word out about the vaccine. In Stanislaus County, education has already begun to address hesitancy in the population.
Toward the end of December, Stanislaus County Health Services spokesperson Kamlesh Kaur said some people in the county were hesitant about getting the vaccine.
“We are aware that a lot of our community members are hesitant in getting the vaccine. The first part will be to understand where that hesitancy is coming from…,” Kaur told ABC10.
Some agencies are hoping that wherever their message can't reach, then the message of their community partners can jump in. Questions are at the heart of the outreach effort and Guzman encourages people to ask questions and seek answers about the vaccine. Barrios aims to make the outreach a comfortable place for people to find those answers.
“I think it’s a way to help create like that open space so that they feel at most comfortable and also feeling that if they can look to someone, then they can look to us and they can take the words to heart too,” Barrios said.
Guzman said the campaign is about answering questions and addressing topics that might scare people but really shouldn't.
“Some common threads that we have seen is that the people are just mainly afraid. They’re scared of what they have heard from others…,” Guzman said.
Barrios added that a lot of the questions they've gotten so far are about vaccine safety, side effects, and what to expect when people get the vaccine. As an ER Tech, Guzman continually sees people coming into the hospital sick, resources stretch thin, and her coworkers overwhelmed. She hopes people will take the chance to protect themselves from the virus when they get the opportunity.
“We want everyone who is going to have access to it to not be afraid but to go ahead and receive this protection from this pandemic,” Guzman said.
For more information on the outreach effort or how to reach out, you can visit the church's website HERE.