County working to get vaccine to Hispanic community

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

Eber Menjivar wants to help Hispanic people in Dubois County get vaccinated not only because he knows and cares for the community but because he’s seen firsthand what COVID-19 can do.

He’s stayed up late into the night waiting for doctors to call with an update. He remembers his dad being rushed to the hospital and spending almost a week hooked up to machines and his family members, several of whom also had COVID-19, not knowing what would happen to him.

“It was very between our walls, it was in our system,” Menjivar, president of the Association of Latin Americans in Southern Indiana, or ALASI, said. “A lot of people don't realize how real it is until it gets in your house or it's one of your loved ones or someone that you care tremendously about.”

Menjivar keeps his phone on him at all times in case someone calls with questions or needs help registering for the vaccine because he knows there are fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers out there who need help.

Registering for the COVID-19 vaccine has proven difficult for many people, whether it be challenges with internet access, transportation or a backed-up phone operator. These challenges are only amplified for Americans whose first language is not English.

Nearly 9% of residents in Dubois County are Hispanic or Latino, and 6% of households in the county speak a language other than English at home, according to 2019 U.S. Census data.

Even several months after the vaccine became available in the U.S., many governments at the state and local level provide only limited vaccine information in languages other than English, if at all.

In Dubois County, many people get information about the vaccine through the health department. Although the health department’s website can be translated to many different languages, most of the links on the homepage lead to press releases about the vaccine that are only in English.

In addition to non-English speaking communities, immigrants and people of color also struggle to get the vaccine. This applied to COVID-19 tests, as well, according to the American Public Health Association.

Shawn Werner, administration director of the Dubois County Health Department, said he and others with the health department met with other members of the community in ALASI, Southwest Dubois County School Corporation and the Latino Collaboration table to find ways for Hispanic and Spanish-speaking people in the county to access the vaccine more easily. Members of all the groups are developing videos and content in Spanish and taking calls to answer questions and help register elegible people.

A short video was posted on the health department’s Facebook page Feb. 19 with Menjivar and Rossina Sandoval, director of community engagement for SWDCS, providing information about the vaccine in Spanish. Sandoval spoke about the benefits of being vaccinated and Menjivar spoke about what documents are needed when registering: identification and an insurance card, if available.

In addition, those registering must show proof of legal residence in the U.S. and Indiana, which can be done by providing a document with one’s address.

In addition to being available over the phone, Menjivar said ALASI has been providing information on Facebook, as well.

“Facebook is our biggest way of communicating to our people, because I feel like everyone's on there at some point, throughout the day or night,” he said.

Sandoval said she and the schools are also using Facebook to communicate. This has been helpful, she said, because even if older family members who are eligible for the vaccine aren’t on social media, their younger family members are.

Additionally, Sandoval has been using a list of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking families in the school system to send emails and call each family to tell them about the registration process.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” she said. “So to be a really strong community, we have to focus on all of our population.”

For general information that can be translated to Spanish, Menjivar recommended visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The Dubois County Health Department also now has at least one employee that can specifically help Spanish-speaking patients.

Anyone who needs help registering for the vaccine or has questions, whether it be about anything from legal status regarding vaccine eligibility to general COVID-19 information, are encouraged to contact the following people:

• Eber Menjivar: 812-309-9943 (after 5 p.m.)

• Rossina Sandoval: 812-631-2254 (before 5 p.m.)

• Irma Alanis: 812-481-7050 ext. 7133

• Donna Oeding: dcoeding56@gmail.com




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