Ad campaign will encourage COVID shots among Latino Iowans, as vaccination disparities persist

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Nearly two-thirds of Iowa’s Latino residents have not yet been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the national leader of an advocacy group said in Des Moines Friday.

Darryl Morin, president of Forward Latino, said his group is launching an ad campaign on Spanish language radio and TV stations and in print media outlets to encourage more residents to seek the vaccines and help end the pandemic. 

© Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register COVID-19 booster shots at the Spurgeon Manor retirement community in Dallas Center, Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

“The Latino community has really suffered and bore a disproportionate impact,” Morin told reporters in a news conference. 

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, all eyes are on Iowa. Get updates of all things Iowa politics delivered to your inbox.

He noted that many Hispanic residents hold jobs that were deemed essential, so they had to keep working throughout the pandemic.

“They were the ones who ensured we had food on our shelves, meat in our freezers, cared for our elderly and so much more,” he said. 

Nationally, Latino residents have been nearly three times more likely than white residents to be hospitalized for COVID-19, and nearly twice as likely to die from it, Morin said.

Morin said the best estimate he’s seen is about 35% of Iowa’s Latino residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That compares to about 55% of all Iowa residents, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similar disparities are being seen across the country, he said. 

He said part of the problem is many Latino residents work multiple jobs at odd hours, and they may have trouble getting time off to obtain a vaccination. Also, he said, many have heard misinformation about the shots, including that they cause infertility or pregnancy complications, or that people must be citizens and must show government-issued identification before being vaccinated. Those claims are not true, he said. 

More: Polk County COVID vaccine rules aren’t driving employees to quit, but drive a few dozen to get jabs

The Iowa Department of Public Health has awarded $155,000 in federal money to the group Forward Latino to pay for its efforts in the state. The campaign, called “Por Mi Familia,” will emphasize that when people get vaccinated, they will help protect their entire families from the disease. Other groups, including LULAC Iowa and Latinx Immigrants of Iowa, also are working on the campaign. 

One of the first ads will feature Carmen Lerma, a Milwaukee Latino activist in her 50s who needed a double lung transplant after she developed COVID-19 last year. 

Future ads from the group will feature Iowa residents. 

More: Polk County COVID vaccine rules aren’t driving employees to quit, but drive a few dozen to get jabs

Joe Henry, a Des Moines activist who is a national vice president of Forward Latino, said the group also will set up vaccination clinics and will visit people via the phone or in their homes to explain why vaccination is important.

“We know where we have a density of our community members, especially here on the south side and east side,” Henry said. “Getting into the neighborhoods is the best way.” 

The in-person campaign will focus on eight counties with relatively large Latino populations. They are Buena Vista, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Pottawattamie, Scott, Tama and Woodbury counties. 

Tony Leys covers health care for the Register. Reach him at tleys@registermedia.com or 515-284-8449. 

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Ad campaign will encourage COVID shots among Latino Iowans, as vaccination disparities persist

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