Education to address community vaccine hesitancy

Heart to Heart International has been providing COVID-19 vaccinations in under-resourced communities since March. The program is designed to work with organizations and community leaders in the most under-served areas and to reach those people who are vulnerable or hesitant.

It is done in partnership with organizations in the local Kansas City community, including Juntos Center for Advancing Health, KC Digital, Mid-America Regional Council, University of Kansas Medical Center, Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, Urban League of Greater Kansas City, and more.  Juntos Center for Advancing Health, KC Digital, Mid-America Regional Council, University of Kansas Medical Center, Wyandotte County Health, Urban League of Greater Kansas City, and more.

Members of these organizations meet regularly to discuss progress and to brainstorm ideas. KUMC provided Area Deprivation Index (ADI) maps that show which areas have the lowest vaccination rates. Using this information, HHI then reaches out in the communities to religious leaders, schools, community groups, and offers to come to them.

“These are communities that don’t have a CVS or Walgreens on every corner,” Stacy Tobin, HHI Community Health Worker, said. “People are busy and don’t have the time necessary to get to places to receive medical care. So when we are able to plug into events that are already happening in their community, we make it easier for them.

One of those events was a family night for a school for refugee children. The pre-planned night attracted 80 families with 27 languages attend. HHI was able to provide educational materials and answer questions for the families in attendance.

Vaccine hesitancy is not individual but often community-wide. Many of the people at these events don’t know anyone who has gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, so they have questions like, “What it is like?”, “Is it safe?”, “What will it look like in the future for me and for my kids?” They often ask the community health workers themselves if they have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine, because they want to hear personally from someone who has received one.

Stacy Tobin says the goal of the KC Programs department is not only vaccination, but to create deep roots in a community by providing health education and supplies the people within the communities need, including personal protective equipment, soap, sanitizer, and diapers.

Tena Tiruneh, HHI programs director said “We understand that communication and defending against misinformation must be a part of our campaigns. We also recognize that finding trusted community leaders from within each of our communities is key for disseminating our messaging.”

As of November 30, 2021, HHI has administered 6954 vaccinations at 140 events with 61 partner organizations. Find dates and times for upcoming vaccinations here.

Our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Agustina Boehringer made a series of informational videos in Spanish to educate community members on vaccine safety and efficacy. Find more videos here.

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