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Seattle community groups with deep neighborhood ties helping with vaccine hesitancy

Non-profits, trusted in their communities, are working with one family at a time to get more people vaccinated.

SEATTLE — State and local governments have done a lot to make vaccines easily accessible, but some people still need an extra nudge to get them to sign up for shots.

Non-profits with deep roots in their communities are working with one family at a time to change minds about vaccines.

In the backyard of her White Center home, Isabel Quijano prepared for another weekly delivery of food for people whose lives have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It's been a big impact in the community,” she said through a translator.

The families she serves don’t always trust the government or other institutions to help them, but they often trust her and the organization she’s a part of - the Latino Community Fund.

That bond has been pivotal for persuading them to get vaccinated.

“I have been able to convince four or five families that were very reluctant in getting vaccinated, and not just the person who was reluctant to take the vaccine, but also the rest of the family, other members of the family have actually gotten vaccinated,” Quijano said through a translator.

Quijano is a “promotora,” a community health worker who can link people with a wide range of services.

“One passes my number to the other, to the other, but also I’ve been calling people that I know and families that I know to get registered for the vaccine,” she said.

At the Dominican Association of Washington State, a quick phone call can get you a vaccine appointment, and for BIPOC people who get fully vaccinated, an entry into a raffle for a trip to the Dominican Republic.

“We’ve had parents call trying to get their kids signed up, I’ve had 18 year olds call, college students, everybody, we want to help as many people as possible,” said Marian Garcini, program manager.

But for some people, the lure of a free vacation is not enough.

John Rodriguez, executive director and founder of the Dominican Association of Washington State, lost a grandmother and cousin to COVID-9 and says groups like his should talk openly with clients about their experiences, and how the vaccine can help avoid additional grief.

“We need to share with them our stories, our personal stories,” he said. “I myself had my concerns, my doubts about vaccines.”

“When you see your neighbor get vaccinated and you're hearing that it went well when you're following somebody on Instagram and they post that they got vaccinated and they didn't have symptoms or they had minor symptoms, you start thinking about it and you go, 'maybe this wouldn't be such a bad idea,'" Garcini said.

These groups say they’re making progress and research backs them up.

A recent study found that people who were previously reluctant to get vaccinated are changing their minds. Researchers said they saw a significant decline in vaccine hesitancy from late last year to March of this year, especially among Hispanic and Black people.

“All this work is volunteering to help the community because we have to help each other, and we love to help each other,” Quijano said.