To reach hard-hit Filipino communities, leaders seek to overcome vaccine hesitancy

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 12:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Although Filipinos make up 16% of Hawaii’s population, the state Department of Health said they account for 20% of the COVID cases in the state.

Because Filipinos are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, community leaders are working to encourage folks to get vaccinated — hoping the Filipino community can move past the damage the virus has brought.

“We’ve been drastically hit hard, economically, health-wise,” said Donnie Juan, the executive director of the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu.

Juan and his team visit gathering places, like local churches, to reach the community and provide information about the vaccine in native languages.

He said there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and it helps to hear the right thing from the right people.

“There has been kind of a period where it’s just not as many people are getting vaccinated,” said Juan. “If you hear it from just a stranger, it may not have as much emphasis if you hear from a trusted member who has the original information printed in that dialect.”

Kaiser Permanente vaccinated hundreds at the center on Thursday.

Many folks on their community vaccination team are able to speak the Filipino language.

“I would say communicating with them with the same language makes them feel relaxed and comfortable,” said Rio Malig, an employee health nurse with Kaiser Permanente.

Malig helped folks get through the forms before the shot.

“It’s better, they can understand you,” said Marissa Galace, who found comfort knowing there were healthcare workers who could speak to her in her preferred language.

The Filipino Community Center also uses media outlets, such as KNDI RADIO 1270 AM, to help get their message across.

Oftentimes, they’ll do interviews in the language.

“I‘m glad that I see other organizations are joining in,” said Ramon Sumibcay, a host and DJ for the station. “It takes a big community effort to get to the finish line.”

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