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Actor Sean Penn’s nonprofit, which has been central in operating vaccination and testing sites in Los Angeles, has launched an awareness campaign to increase immunizations in communities of color hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CORE’s initiative, called It’s Time Los Angeles, comes amid continued calls to prioritize equity in vaccine deployment, even as data shows black and brown communities continue to be in the spotlight. lagging behind in terms of access.

For its campaign, CORE has drawn on culturally and linguistically competent leaders and organizations to raise awareness of the importance of immunization in the areas they serve, said the co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit, Ann Lee.

Communities “survive crises over and over and over again. It’s the warriors who find out, ”Lee said. “If you tap into that, and tap into and tap into this incredible wealth of knowledge … and the work that they do every day, and scale it up, that’s what’s going to happen.” [bring] change.”

The nonprofit has found that science-based messages are not very effective in tackling vaccine reluctance.

“A lot of people change their minds because of people they trust and know who are also getting the vaccine,” Lee said. “They trust their doctors, their religious leaders. They trust people who are pillars of the community.

Last month, California began devoting 40% of its vaccine supply to underserved communities, where people have died from COVID-19 in much higher numbers.

Vaccination rates in those areas have seen progress since then, but continue to lag behind wealthier neighborhoods and the county as a whole, according to an analysis of data from The Times.

Some neighborhoods in southern Los Angeles – where the spread of the coronavirus has been particularly devastating – saw the largest increase in the number of their residents who received at least one dose of the vaccine between March 1 and April 12.

Despite the gains, these areas still have lower vaccination rates than the county average.

In each of the 10 communities that have experienced the largest relative gains over the past six weeks, the share of the population aged 16 and over who received at least one dose of vaccine remains below 30%. In comparison, 37.1% of LA County residents 16 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of April 4, according to public health data.

A myriad of overlapping factors likely underlie the disparity. There is a reluctance towards vaccines, which can stem from a lack of information in the language or a loss of confidence in government institutions.

Then there are access issues. Some residents of these low-income communities do not have a computer or a vehicle – two things that make getting vaccinated much easier. The first helps to make an appointment and the second to bring people there.

The help leaders can offer includes providing accurate information and clarifying misconceptions in a language community members understand, said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, or CHIRLA.

Salas said his organization, which is part of the It’s Time campaign, spends a lot of time letting people know they are eligible to receive a vaccine regardless of their immigration status. This requires answering questions about confidentiality and concerns about negative repercussions, she said.

Recently, Salas met a street vendor in her 60s who was passing through a vaccination site and asked her if she was eligible. Health care workers told her that she was and that they could vaccinate her that day. She gladly accepted.

“She’s older, she’s an immigrant, and she just exposes herself by the nature of being a street vendor,” Salas said. “These are the people we want to target: the people who think they don’t qualify, they can’t get it. And yet, they desperately need it.

Awareness takes time and is far from certain. Out of 500 conversations, 200 people could go ahead to get the vaccine, she said.

Dr Rohit Varma, chief medical officer at CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, said he was concerned about vaccines, but focused on getting them to those who want them.

The hospital, along with the Southern California Eye Institute, of which Varma is a founding director, partnered with LA advisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to create a walk-in vaccination clinic serving primarily areas of southern Los Angeles in the Councilman’s District.

Operating Tuesday mornings, the clinic will provide approximately 300 photos per session. The people served by the clinic “come from virtually all racial and ethnic groups,” he said. Many do not have access to reliable transportation or computers, and some are homeless.

“I think there is still a huge pent-up need for people who want the vaccine and are willing to get it, but to a large extent don’t have access,” Varma said.

Times editors Luke Money and Matt Stiles contributed to this report.

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