December Field Report: Learn from the groups on the frontlines combating the Omicron variant

Made to Save is a national public education campaign rooted in grassroots organizing. We have partnered with dozens of community-based organizations and partners all across the country to build trust and access in communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Earlier this year, we released a field report that highlighted the lessons learned and challenges our partners faced on the ground in their communities. Since then, new data has emerged which suggests that, nationally, many of the equity gaps that we saw earlier in the vaccine rollout have closed. We celebrate this achievement as a result of the collective efforts of hundreds of organizations and millions of dollars that have been mobilized by our coalition to provide the access and information that these communities need. 

While it is important to commemorate these milestones, we can’t forget all the important work still left to do. We are still faced with climbing cases and death rates, as the delta and now omicron variants tear through our nation. Relatedly, the need for boosters, for vaccine uptake among newly-eligible children, and other additional vaccine efforts make the work that we are trying to do more urgent and important than ever before. 

As we reflect on these accomplishments and look ahead to the new year we will continue to respond to that urgency, drawing on the strength of our broad coalition of incredible partners and grantees. 

So as we head into 2022, we wanted to share a second, updated version of our field report featuring the latest feedback from groups on the ground that are saving lives, one conversation and vaccine clinic at a time: 

Language and cultural barriers continue to affect the most marginalized populations 

Hundreds of languages are spoken in the United States, yet up to date information, answers to questions, or detailed medical advice is often available only in English, or one or two additional languages. For some of the most marginalized communities, these language barriers have meant that people are unable to find answers to questions, or remain unaware of new developments or updated recommendations. Instead, they rely on word of mouth from members of their own communities, which leaves them vulnerable to hearing out-of-date information or, in some cases, disinformation designed to discourage them from receiving the vaccines. 

Made to Save’s grantees are working in seventeen different languages, most often through hiring native speakers to have one-on-one conversations with people in their own languages, translating critical information, and working in the environments – both online and offline – where these languages are prevalent. Still, the lack of information in different languages, as well as culturally competent messaging, remains a barrier for these important communities. 

Access remains a big challenge in areas without strong infrastructure

Since the beginning of the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines, unprecedented efforts have been made to expand access to the vaccines across the country. However, one year later, many of our grantees continue to run into challenges with access, and it remains a prevalent issue. This is especially true in areas that are more rural, with less infrastructure, more rural populations, and those  served by local governments that are not as supportive of access initiatives. 

Our grantees are working with community partners, broad state coalitions, local governments, and vaccine providers to address and overcome these challenges for the communities that they serve. In our ongoing efforts to connect people, Made to Save has launched state coalitions, calls and meetings where we bring together a variety of groups working within one state to discuss unique challenges and opportunities to serve the people in that state.  

 flyer from NC Counts’ public listening session that gave a platform to community members to express their concerns and ask any questions regarding the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccines.

 Above, flyer from NC Counts’ public listening session that gave a platform to community members to express their concerns and ask any questions regarding the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccines.

“With respect to vaccine providers, we have experienced so many challenges, including: lack of response to partners’ requests, showing up late, not providing the number of vaccines that were requested, refusal to vaccinate in certain areas of town, wanting to leave early before all vaccines have been administered, and cancelling at the last minute. In addition, some vaccine providers have asked inappropriate questions to community members, such as requiring ID and one provider staff member even asked a minor if they were pregnant in front of their parents.” – NC Counts

Community partnerships and resources help us meet people where they are, and build relationships beyond just vaccinations

As the unvaccinated community gets smaller, community groups are now talking to and working with people who have increasingly high concerns about the vaccine. The need for a relationship built on trust is becoming more important than ever. However, it takes a significant amount of time and effort to build the trust required for a conversation about a personal medical decision. 

Being in deeper conversations with folks that go beyond general outreach has been key. Many of our programs offer resources like testing kits, PPE, or unbiased information, and we’re seeing the turnout of community truly respond genuinely to a non-judgmental environment.” – Ohio Organization 

To build this trust, community groups have created partnerships with other organizations in the area, and provide services that extend far beyond vaccine information and access. They are providing assistance navigating systems such as the immigration system or school enrollment, giving resources and supplies to people, and partnering closely with churches and recreational centers. In doing so, they are serving their communities in a variety of ways, establishing trust and building relationships that then allow for more open communication about the vaccines. 

“Through our outreach events, we have seen that participants are more likely to speak to us when we offer gift cards, food, and PPE supplies. Additionally, partnering with local businesses to provide food at our events has also been successful. Promoting free food at events attracts attention from people who might be food insecure, and it helps build clientele for the businesses providing their services. These businesses are usually owned locally by latinos and other people of color. Lastly, partnering with local churches, recreational centers, and businesses has helped result in an increase of participation from members of those specific associations.” – Nevada Organization

Newly eligible groups, like children ages 5-11, present new opportunities to reach entire families

Many of our grantees work in communities with strong intergenerational ties, such as immigrant communities. Motherful, an organization in Columbus, OH aimed at supporting and empowering single mothers and part of the Ohio Women’s Alliance, held an event for single mothers to share their pandemic experiences after the FDA granted EUA for the Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year olds. In these and other more family-oriented communities, they have found that hosting school clinics, or otherwise reaching families to talk about vaccines for children, has led to entire families being vaccinated together.

“We held a vaccination clinic at an elementary school site for families and students. Some kids were afraid of the vaccine, but after talking to them about the benefits, they were more encouraged to receive the vaccine. 55 adults and 26 kids ended up getting vaccinated!” – UMA Tulsa, Oklahoma 

Conclusion

As feedback from groups on the ground indicates, alongside new policies and increased urgency surrounding the Omicron variant, there are many strategic priorities to center our work as we head into 2022. 

One example of this is the need to address the ever-changing landscape of this pandemic, as it relates to children and school policies around COVID-19. We will also continue to prioritize workplace safety and how to help employers center equity in their vaccine policies. Furthermore, we will continue to find ways to invest in trusted messengers and connect them with vaccine providers. Above all, our top priority will be continuing to support and invest in our trusted community partners.

Thank you to every partner that’s contributed to this report and to our collective efforts to save lives amidst this pandemic. 

Contact us at [email protected] with any feedback or questions!