The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone in the world, yet some more than others suffered more from this worldwide issue. In this case my focus is on the communications efforts from the CDC & other organizations to provide resources to Latinx families and their children focusing on the COVID-19 vaccine. My critical overview will be based on the information available and my experience as a Latinx man who lived through the pandemic and was involved in health communications campaigns through my own company, Q Hubo News.
Latinx culture is a complex culture like any other and when it comes to health communication there are values and beliefs that the CDC and health organizations in the United States had to consider when creating the messages needed to motivate Latinx parents to vaccinate their children. Without these considerations and the effort from Latinx health communicators many families would have been left without reliable information to make informed decisions.
Messages used and their potential effectiveness
The CDC used various graphics and slogans focused on creating a positive image around the COVID-19 vaccine and its effectiveness with children. Here is an example:
“To vaccinate her against COVID-19 means less worry and more fun” (Vacunas contra el COVID-19 para niños y adolescentes, 2022).
is the phrase used in this image. In the slogan we see that parents in the Latinx community are encouraged to vaccinate their children because that means less worry for them and more fun for the children. Hispanic culture is known to be protective of their children and their safety, this campaign appeals to that part of the Hispanic culture. When it comes to having fun, that concept if more focused on the general value children have in that they want to have fun.
This ad does a great job at motivating children to get vaccinated so that they can have fun. The image does not stop there as it provides the reader with a link to find more information about COVID-19 vaccine and how it works.
Another example of how messages have been clear and easy to understand is the video campaign through YouTube done in Spanish by the Florida Department of Health which focused on the COVID-19 vaccine in general instead of focusing on an age group with one of the messages saying, “the vaccine is secure and free for everyone who lives in the United States” (Hechos Sobre La Vacuna COVID-19, 2021).
The campaign answers potential questions people may have about the COVID-19 shot. In the Hispanic culture another aspect that could influence a parent regarding their children getting the vaccine is the potential cost of it. Hispanic households tend to live paycheck to paycheck creating an obstacle for those who may want to vaccinate themselves or their children but can’t afford it.
Research suggests that “Latinos are vulnerable in regard to education and health insurance as more than half (53%) have not completed high school.” (Latino Immigrants in a New Destination State: A Qualitative Study of Provider Experiences. Journal of Social Work Education, 2018). This creates a difficult path for families in Hispanic households who may think the COVID-19 has a cost to it.
Understanding the financial standing and concerns that could arise when a Hispanic parent is thinking of vaccinating their children is essential when developing a vaccine campaign and as we have seen this has been considered by the resources and videos used to encourage the Latinx community to vaccinate their children.
One of the main concerns that communicators face when developing a campaign is to define what channels must be used to make sure that the messages are being delivered to the desired audience. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine campaign for children the audience targeted are the parents and where do Hispanic parents get most of their information from? Person to person contact “Not surprisingly, personal contact remains the most direct and effective way for service providers and
educators to communicate with Hispanic families. Face-to-face communication allows for a level of interaction
and an exchange of information that few, if any, alternatives can match” (Reaching and Engaging with Hispanic Communities: A Research-Informed Communication Guide for Nonprofits, Policymakers, and Funders, 2016). The CDC and other institutions provide resources for community organizations to go out and spread the word.
For example, In Harrisburg a Public Relations agency named Latino Connection did a mobile clinic where they were educating the Hispanic community on the topic of COVID-19 vaccines. “Latino Connection, a leader in community health, is the founder of Pennsylvania’s first COVID-19 Mobile Response Unit, CATE. CATE, which stands for, Community-Accessible Testing & Education, exists to provide affordable and accessible COVID-19 education, testing, and vaccinations to low-income, vulnerable communities across Pennsylvania to ensure equality in healthcare and the ability to stay safe, informed, and healthy.” (CATE Mobile Response Unit – CATE Provides Community-Accessible Testing & Education for COVID-19, 2021).
CDC’s & other organizations health communication campaigns regarding Hispanic households have been focused in providing ways for parents and their children to make sure that information leads to actions and having more children get vaccinated along with their parents.
I believe that the campaigns done by the CDC & health organizations have been effective in ensuring that families have all the information they need to make this decision.
“Since Pennsylvania’s Department of Health confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 in early March, the Better Together REACH team has been working to assist the Lebanon and Reading communities in their fight against this novel disease. “ (Reaching the Hispanic Community About COVID-19 Through Existing Chronic Disease Prevention Programs, 2020). In my personal experience working with Project REACH through Q Hubo News they have been very focused on educating Latinx families about the COVID-19 vaccine and how important it is that they prevent getting sick and must go to the hospital for care.
The local initiative had a strong outreach in different avenues like using local & regional Hispanic newspapers, radio stations and social media local Hispanic influencers. Their approach was efficient and fast which help make sure that information was available as soon as possible in English and Spanish.
One of the challenges that this local community outreach initiative faced was the fact that Latinx families were more exposed to COVID-19 because of their work therefore exposing their children to the virus. “The fact that many residents will carpool to and from work, noted former Lebanon City council member Cornell Wilson, who serves on Gov. Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs.” ((Nora Shelly, Lebanon Daily News, 2020).
While there is a general campaign for Hispanics to get vaccinated, I could not find a campaign for the local community and their children to get vaccinated. Local health organizations have not been dedicating too many resources in health communication campaigns for Latinx parents to vaccinate their children.
Most of the campaigns are national campaigns but the problem with this is that there are not many local outreach initiatives to answer the questions that Latinx parents may have about COVID-19 vaccine shots and their children.
Observed theorical models & implemented practices of health communications within the COVID-19 campaign to encourage parents of Hispanic children to vaccinate them
A model that I can see being used to encourage parents to vaccinate their children is the Health Belief Model. In research done by Schiavo she described this model” The major assumption of this model is that to engage in healthy behaviors, key groups need to be aware of their risk for severe or life-threatening diseases and perceive that the benefits of behavior change outweigh potential barriers or other negative aspects of recommended actions” (Schiavo, 2013, P.40)
In the case of the COVID-19 Shot for children of Hispanic parents, the focus is to avoid the potential death of the child due to COVID-19 and the vaccine is the solution to that. The key group in this case are the Hispanic parents who have not vaccinated their children because of fear of the vaccine.
In the CDC campaign we have also seen the use of mass media to encourage Hispanic parents to get their kids vaccinated. For example, my newspaper is currently working on a campaign for adults to do their booster shots. We have been working with an agency that has been providing the material and we have been publishing that material in our various channels.
Schiavo in her health communications book mentions the importance of mass media in these campaigns “mass communication is increasingly multicultural and no longer knows geographic boundaries. As mass communication at the global scale has become a recent cultural phenomenon” (Schiavo, 2013, P.138).
Mass communication has been essential for the CDC and other Health institutions to communicate to the parents in the Hispanic community the need for them to act and vaccinate their children against COVID-19.
In doing the campaign, the CDC needed the help of health communication professionals to do an audience and situation analysis. When it comes to a minority group like the Hispanic population this really matters. The CDC in their campaign and its various messages have been using jargon, phrases, and information that the Hispanic community at large would understand and relate to. “The audience profile focuses only on the audience’s characteristics, demographics, needs, values, social norms, attitudes, lifestyle, and behavior. These descriptive factors are also used to segment key audiences.” (Schiavo, 2013. P. 309) Without the consideration of the audience profile of the Hispanic community, the campaign would not be effective.
Regarding the situation analysis, Hispanic parents come from many different cultures that exist among Latinos but not only culture, geographical location, their immigration status, but all of these are also factors to consider in relation to the messages being provided through the CDC campaign.
Mariela Fernandez in her research mentioned “Unfortunately, attempts to increase community involvement among certain minority populations have not resulted in success due to structural constraints, cultural differences, and even discrimination” (Mariela Fernandez, 2018. P. 921) The Hispanic community just like any other community is a very diverse population with challenges within it in how people inside that public relates to each other. Therefore, there is not a cookie cutter approach to health communication specially in the context of vaccines for the children of the Hispanic community.
Finally, the reality is that many Hispanics are in USA to provide a better future for their families and many of them are not here legally which can be a very important factor in the decision-making process to seek professional healthcare “Other factors like low immunization rates linked to low-economic status and fear of authority among new immigrants have negative consequences.” (Cultural Insights; Communicating with Hispanics/Latinos, 2012. P. 9) Hispanic parents need to be reassured that the vaccine is free, that they won’t be deported (Even when being legal residence, Hispanics want that reassurance) and that their children will be safe if taking the vaccine must be messages that should be communicated in this Health Communication campaign.
Overall, based on my research about the CDC’s campaign to encourage parents of Hispanic children to vaccinate them I found that the messages were easy to understand, they were able to find ways to communicate the importance of the vaccine for children but in my opinion, they also failed go deeper in what are some of the reasons why the Hispanic parents have been hesitant to get their children vaccinated.
There needs to be more dialogue with the Hispanic community and not depend on community leaders to be responsible of all the communication messages needed to address concerns. Hispanic parents need healthcare professionals who really care to address their doubts beyond what a campaign is saying, they want to feel a personal connection because at the end, Hispanic parents are just that, parents who want the best for their children.
CATE Mobile Response Unit – CATE provides Community-Accessible Testing & Education for COVID-19. (2021). CATE. https://catemobileunit.com/#section-16-32
Cultural insights; communicating with Hispanics/Latinos. (2012). Cultural Insights. https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/13183
Hechos Sobre La Vacuna COVID-19. (2021, May 7). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YA1QMTXWkQY
Latino Immigrants in a New Destination State: A Qualitative Study of Provide. . .: EBSCOhost. (2018). Journal of Social Work Education. https://web.p.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=7&sid=3d2d2be1-3e46-4692-9dca-92f69e4db160%40redis
Mariela Fernandez (2018) Increasing community engagement in Latino residents to improve health outcomes, Local Environment, 23:9, 920-933, DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2018.1500530
Nora Shelly, Lebanon Daily News. (2020, April 24). “A perfect storm.” Lebanon health leaders concerned over coronavirus in Latino community. Lebanon Daily News. https://eu.ldnews.com/story/news/2020/04/24/lebanon-pa-latino-community-vulnerable-coronavirus-covid-19/3011722001/
Schiavo, R. (2013). Health Communication: From Theory to Practice. Jossey-Bass.
Vacunas contra el COVID-19 para niños y adolescentes. (2022, July 21). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://espanol.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/children-teens.html
Cultural insights; communicating with Hispanics/Latinos
Corporate Authors(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.), Office for the Associate Director of Communication., Division of Communication Services. Published Date: 6/26/12;2012; URL: https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/13183