Right now, thousands of people are out knocking on doors in order to get as many Californians vaccinated as possible.
The state of California has kicked in $10 million to fund the effort, which is being led by Healthy Future California and UCLA, in partnership with 70 community-based organizations.
There are an estimated 2,000 people who are employed “to make peer-to-peer appeals and provide support to help overcome barriers to vaccinations,” according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.
These door-to-door efforts are taking place in Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties.
In California, 39% of residents are fully vaccinated, while another 12% are partially vaccinated, according to the California Department of Public Health. Public health officials have said that at least 70% of the population must be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
Newsom in a statement acknowledged that “it’s going to take some new approaches” to reach those people who have yet to be vaccinated.
According to an April Public Policy Institute of California poll, nearly one in five Californians said they would either wait a year to get the vaccine or wouldn’t ever get vaccinated. African Americans remain the most hesitant to get the vaccine, the survey found.
That percentage also follows a national trend of so-called vaccine hesitancy in rural regions of the United States. According to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the average vaccination rate in rural counties is 38.9% compared to 45.7% in urban areas.
“These enhanced initiatives build on the community-based approach the state has taken throughout this crisis, in order to ensure vaccines are easily within reach of more people,” the governor said.
Linda Gomez is one of those people going door to door. She leads a team of about 30 canvassers, who each hit about 31 doors a day in South Central Los Angeles, she said.
“Each of us does our part and we get the word out there,” Gomez said of the effort.
The communities that Gomez and others go into are communities that are hard to reach through public service announcements, social media and news outlets. The residents may be elderly, or there may be a language barrier.
Often, they are suspicious of visitors.
“Not everybody is trusting of folks that come to their door,” Gomez said.
Veronica Carrizales, with Healthy Future California, said that community-based organizations are hiring people from the targeted communities to reach out to those very same communities.
“The great thing is these are people from these communities,” Carrizales said. “So in many ways, they’re trusted messengers.”
Canvassers are expected to help their clients through whatever hurdles may have prevented them from signing up for a COVID-19 vaccine, whether it is language barriers, concern about vaccine side effects, or even misinformation about vaccines.
“We want to make sure that people in our communities are getting vaccinated,” Carrizales said.
Canvassers also provide their clients with access to other resources, Carrizales said, such as information about rent relief, the food bank or state help with COVID-19-related funeral expenses.
Carrizales said that canvassers have had incredibly positive results from their efforts — including getting multiple people in each household scheduled for a vaccine 67% of the time.
Canvassers have so far knocked on more than 231,000 doors, completed more than 1.3 million calls, and have made 13,000 appointments, according to Carrizales.
“For most part people are happy to see us there are their doors,” Carrizales said.
Hannah Wiley of The Sacramento Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.
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