BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Vaccine production has been ramping up across the U.S., and over a thousand people are being vaccinated in Kern County every day. But still, some community members are running into an issue getting the vaccine.
Language and cultural concerns are considered the biggest issue. Voices from many Kern populations, like the Sikh, black, and Hispanic communities have said that it’s been not only challenging getting some people to understand how to get the vaccine but to trust it too.
“Trust is a huge factor. People say you can’t be what you don’t see. I think this is another aspect of that playing itself out,” said Raji Brar, cofounder of the Sikh Women’s Association.
Kern County Public Health says it hasn’t had any trouble getting most people to sign up for vaccines. But they also say most of its appointments fill up whenever new doses become available at the county’s mass vaccination site. The department also said at times, it’s not as easy for some local communities to get on board with getting a shot, like the Sikh population.
“Currently you cannot go on the myturn website and there’s no Punjabi available. That’s just unacceptable,” said Brar.
Raji Brar, cofounder of the Sikh Women’s Association, says many older members of the community cannot write or speak English. She thinks things like mobile vaccination units in Sikh communities, and public outreach featuring people that look and talk in a way familiar to Sikh people could be key. Another impacted population is Kern's African American community. They account for 2.3% of those who have received the vaccine in Kern County according to the state’s website.
“There is some vaccine hesitancy there. They have had some disproportionate rates impacting them, particularly with deaths due to COVID-19,” said Michelle Corson of Kern County Public Health.
Michelle Corson of Kern Public Health says the department will soon release a PSA featuring local African American community members in an effort to build vaccine trust in the population. She also says building that trust is important for the Sikh community too.
One of Kern County’s largest populations, the Hispanic population has also been affected. The myturn website is offered in Spanish, and Kern public health will even send text reminders in Spanish to people who need to get their second vaccine dose. But again, officials say some members of the community have challenges with getting the help they want, specifically farm workers.
“They don’t read English very well, don’t have computers, tablets, nor WiFi access,” said Camila Chavez, director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
This has led to a partnership between organizations and the state to host three free vaccination clinics, specifically targeting agricultural workers. Those will be held this weekend in Lamont and Bakersfield.
“The work continues. With COVID-19 the work never stops, and so we just continue those dialogues with these different groups,” said Corson.
If you or someone you know is in need of those vaccinations for that farmworkers' clinic this weekend, call (661) 383-2588.