FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — COVID-19 vaccine doses are rolling out to frontline workers across the region. Some health experts believe this is a turning point in the health crisis. A local doctor tells us this is especially good news for minority communities impacted by the virus.
The Marshallese and Latin-X communities were hit hard during the pandemic but after several months of educational campaigns, outreach and testing events there’s been a lot of progress.
Dr. Shelton Riklon is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Northwest campus. He said the combined efforts of several community partners and health institutions helped bring down the number of COVID-19 cases in the Marshallese and Latin-X communities.
There have been PSA’s in their native languages, the use of bilingual contact tracers and health navigators, increased testing events and better access to care.
Dr. Riklon tells us he is also encouraged by the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine. He said there are effort to educate those communities about the vaccine so when it does become available, they can make informed decisions about getting the shot.
“Just addressing those myths that are rampant in those communities, to make sure that they understand it. It will be the same thing with the COVID-19 vaccine, trying to make sure we educate them, about exactly what they are getting from the vaccine and why it is important to get it,” said Dr. Riklon.
- UAMS providing free COVID-19 testing and flu shots
- Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education
- 2422 N. Thompson St., Springdale (testing and flu shots will occur in the main parking lot)
- 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
- Monday – Friday (ongoing)
- Marshallese and Spanish translators
You may remember the CDC visited Northwest Arkansas in the summer and found that the Marshallese and Latin-X people faced several challenges like language, cultural and Financial barriers, when it comes to prevention, testing and getting medical care.
In its July report it found that 45 % of all adult cases in NWA were Latin-X and 19 % were Pacific Islanders/Marshallese.
Dr. Riklon said for months they have worked in those communities to break those barriers.
He said as of December 1, those numbers dropped to about 35 % for Latin-X people and 9.6 % for the Marshallese.
Dr. Riklon said culturally, Marshallese and Latin-X people have large families that extend beyond the household. He said a part of their campaign focused on how social distancing and limiting gatherings will protect their loved ones.
“If the family is first and foremost and is the foundation of a culture … it behooves us not to take care of our family members. For us, anything that we can do to protect our families whether it’s something that may seem like it’s against our culture… we will do our best to ensure our family is taken cared of.”
Dr. Riklon said he sees the work being done in those communities and numbers are trending down. He said keeping community members engaged and empowering them with the tools they need to fight this pandemic is helping.
Dr. Riklon said as long as community leaders stick to the science and continue to work together to set forth the same message of washing hands, wearing a mask and social distancing practices numbers will continue to decrease in those communities.