Oswald Neptune’s troop of workers roam the streets of Mattapan and Hyde Park every day of the week, door-to-door along predetermined routes and visibility points in Mattapan Square and within from Mattapan station, areas with heavy pedestrian traffic and a large Haitian population.
Braving the heat with a cap on his head and a chilled water bottle in hand, Neptune – a well-known radio personality – holds pep talk and delegates transform into a team of 12 with a clear mission. : Reach as many pedestrians as possible, especially those who prefer not to be disturbed, and talk with them about the facts about coronavirus vaccines.
“There are other organizations that run mobile clinics and do other very important work, but we are charged with something special, and that is to make direct contact with people,” Neptune said. “We help disseminate information, dispel misconceptions and build confidence in vaccines; we do this through direct contact with the community.
The effort is part of an initiative by the State Department of Public Health (DPH), which identified 20 towns and villages disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and provided additional financial support for immunization of base within these communities. With boots on the ground every day in Boston wards, the department is looking to increase dose rates.
“The loss of life and suffering caused by Covid-19 has been profound, with a disproportionate impact in communities that already bear a significant burden of disease and illness,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel . “These programs are what we need now, bringing immunization to where people are and allowing everyone to have access to the vaccine. “
For their part, Neptune and his team are deployed along Blue Hill Ave. – an artery already strewn with reminders printed to mask oneself, to distance oneself socially and to be bitten – thinking of the Haitian community of Boston. Existing outreach material is more likely to reach its target audience and be effective when distributed by partners with strong cultural kinship with the surrounding community, Neptune noted.
“Flyers don’t talk,” he said, “but when we’re out there people see us as experts and trust us to ask questions and get honest, real answers. “
In the past, Neptune’s agency, Ethnic Vision Marketing Group, has focused on placing and monitoring advertisements on local Haitian radio stations, such as Radio Concorde and Radio Tandem Kiskeya.
The group’s subcontract with Archipelago Strategies Group, Inc., a marketing and consumer engagement company representing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, marks its first foray into medical marketing; and while the work does not involve dubbing and commercial scripts, the vaccine equity advocacy aligns neatly with the agency’s cultural orientation.
Its team of twelve literally speaks the language of its audience: Ethnic Vision volunteers speak Haitian Creole fluently, and linguistic accessibility has always been the marketing agency’s main concern.
“The government is advocating for vaccines at all levels, but it doesn’t make a difference if people can’t identify with the messenger,” Neptune said. “When people realize that there is a Creole speaking Haitian on their porch, there is a sense of trust that occurs almost immediately, and any initial resistance they may have towards a complete stranger disappears. “
Field Ambassadors receive two days of training from DPH before launching their respective outreach efforts, and team captains are encouraged to participate in weekly training sessions where they receive updates from community health centers and local health professionals on the progression of the virus and vaccine equity initiatives.
This week, the virtual public health panel tackles vaccine reluctance, a significant barrier to Ethnic Vision’s fieldwork in Mattapan and Hyde Park. DHS supports canvassers with weekly mailings of sanitary kits, flyers, canvassing materials and eclectic loot marked “Trust the Facts, Get the Vax.” But most of the preparatory work, including meetings with recalcitrant neighbors, is done by subcontracting groups.
Field Ambassador Muoi Sainti, who attends the Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center and regularly volunteers at the Haitian Majority Church’s immunization clinics, shared anecdotally that “people are not so averse to vaccines that they are ‘they are poorly informed of their effects and they are also afraid.
“Some people tell you that they have already received the vaccine or have made an appointment to receive the vaccine,” he said, “but sometimes they believe the myths about vaccines and it becomes very difficult to break these down. misconceptions. “
“When we leave, we give visibility to the facts, and that’s how we can reach people,” she said.