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Reaching Jackson County’s Spanish-Speaking Community with COVID-19 Vaccines

Imagine booking a doctor appointment or researching a complex medical topic — all without knowing the language. Finding COVID-19 information and accessing health services has been challenging for everyone throughout the pandemic, but even more so for those facing a language barrier.

Spanish-speaking populations are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. They often encounter additional obstacles when seeking medical care or COVID-19 vaccinations, such as a lack of health insurance or primary care providers.

With these challenges in mind, the Jackson County Health Department and our local partners have been working hard to address this communication gap. Mattie Rhodes Center – an organization specializing in community outreach, services, and support for Spanish speakers – reached out to us in May seeking vaccination assistance for their community. Our Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Coordination Team, in partnership with the Kansas City Fire Department, quickly took action to provide much-needed services.

“This particular community struggles with access to vaccines. They were not able to find transportation, appointments, or even clinics that accommodated their language needs,” said Paige Kincaid, Regional COVID-19 Vaccination Coordinator. “It was really important that somebody came in to offer this particular service to the community. Mattie Rhodes was advocating strongly to get vaccines to that particular community, and we were able to go in and help out.”

Since the beginning of our partnership, we have provided the COVID-19 vaccine to approximately 2,000 community members, most of whom are Spanish-speaking and/or new to this area. Thanks to the center, community members have also had access to wrap-around services at these clinics – such as a free food pantry, financial assistance, job-seeking assistance, and more.

Our partnered efforts to reach the Spanish-speaking community about COVID-19 vaccines were recently recognized with a 2021 Mattie Rhodes Center Spirit Award. We’re proud of this recognition, but even more proud of the positive impact that our staff has had.

“We have developed a great relationship with the community grounded in rapport and trust, and we’ve gotten to know many people in that community,” said Kincaid. “With Mattie Rhodes, it’s been an opportunity to break down all of those silos.”

Our COVID-19 vaccine clinic partnership with Mattie Rhodes will continue every three weeks until June of next year. We’re grateful for the opportunity to continue working with such great partners to serve underrepresented communities throughout Jackson County.