President Joe Biden takes a selfie with members of the audience after speaking during a visit to a mobile COVID-19 vaccination unit at the Green Road Community Center in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry in for Tanzina Vega, and this is The Takeaway. On Thursday, President Joe Biden visited Raleigh, North Carolina, as part of his administration's push to restart the nation's stalled vaccination efforts.
President Joe Biden: "Over 150 million Americans have gotten fully vaccinated and they're safe and protected now, including against the Delta variant. They're getting back to living their lives and spending time with their loved ones. But we need more people to get fully vaccinated to finish the job. That's why I'm here."
Melissa Harris-Perry: In recent weeks, North Carolina and other states across the US have experienced a meaningful decline in overall vaccination rates. Only 52% of adults in North Carolina are fully vaccinated according to the state's Department of Health and Human Services. I'm one of them. Whoo hoo.
Now, as part of his visit, President Biden toured mobile vaccination units and met with frontline workers and volunteers working to get their communities vaccinated. For more on this, we're joined now by one of the people doing this work in North Carolina. Eliazar Posada is the acting president and CEO of El Centro Hispano. Eliazar, welcome to the show.
Eliazar Posada: Hi. Thank you so much for having me, and congrats on getting your vaccine.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Listen, I have to say, I was genuinely a little nervous before I had it, but my husband decided to do it. I was like, "Well, we've been down this whole pandemic road together, let's go." The sense of relief I had the moment that even that I had the first shot, I was surprised by how much better I felt in terms of being able to go out and do things. What is the reluctance that you're hearing from folks, or is it about reluctance?
Eliazar Posada: What we hear a lot in our community, it's not so much hesitancy around the science, but about the institutions that are given this vaccine. A lot of our community members, primarily the Hispanic and immigrant community members that we serve, have questions about where's their information going? Is taking this vaccine going to affect me in any way? Primarily those who may not be citizens of the country. That's a lot of hesitancy you've heard, not so much science, but the institutions.
Melissa Harris-Perry: It's such a good point, though, that those are well-placed fears and concerns from a community where actually the state government, the federal government, many local law enforcement have not exactly built trust in recent years.
Eliazar Posada: They haven't, and we just ended four years of very traumatic experiences and rhetoric against our community, not including the years before that, then North Carolina has been trying to pass anti-immigrant legislation. It's no doubt that our community has a lot of fear and distrust against government. That's where organizations likely start to come into play. We know our community, the community knows us, and we can really build that trust around folks and educate, because that's really where all this hesitancy lies is who has this and how do I know that it's safe for me.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Yet, this is also the community that has been hardest hit here in North Carolina.
Eliazar Posada: It has, like our community members have been on the front lines, and since the very beginning of this pandemic, a lot of the information was not given out in a language that our community can understand. It's one thing to have something in Spanish. It's another complete thing to have something culturally appropriate in a language that folks can read, understand, and specifically, those who are still going out every single day, working to make sure that everyone who's staying at home is able to stay home.
This is why we have been pushing so hard, not just for equitable information at the beginning, testing that is placed in places our community can access. Now in this vaccine, taking the vaccine to their neighborhoods, to the mobile home parks, apartment complexes, because we need to go to our community.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I feel like I want to just go yell from the rooftops. Putting it in Google translate for Spanish is not the same thing as having relevant information and spokespeople. Talk to me about what it is that your organization is doing that makes this information relevant.
Eliazar Posada: Yes, please yell that out as loud as you can. We've been trying to do that for decades. One of the things that we've been doing is getting the information, of course, from the CDC, and all of the trusted folks, the scientists, the ones that actually know. Working with our community members to make it into digestible pieces of information.
We've launched a full campaign, NC Unida Contra El Virus, that breaks down all this information, everything from the recommendations to the information around testing and the information now on the vaccines and the three different ones, and putting again in language that our community can understand. That's bringing in folks who may or may not graduated high school or middle school in their own home countries, but they've been able to learn some.
Also using these PSAs in radio stations where our community is listening to; La Mega, La Grande, some of those local radio stations, and doing PSAs in Spanish around information that is accurate.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I heard extended conversation with an African American gentleman in his 50s yesterday. He was asking me, was I vaccinated, and he was someone who works directly with the public, and he kept telling me that he was afraid, and that he was genuinely nervous about what would happen to his body. I now know way too much about his medical history because he told me everything about how frequently he's been sick or not been sick. I felt helpless because it did feel like he was expressing genuine fear. How do we overcome fear like that?
Eliazar Posada: One of the big things that we've done is involved some of the doctors at higher levels here in the counties, that also speaks Spanish or Hispanic or Latinx, and have them come on board to like a Facebook live or come with us to one of the community outreaches. They can have deeper conversations with folks, because in our community we value not just intelligence, but we know there's a certain level of standing that comes with being a doctor in Latinx communities.
We have someone who's like, "I studied this. I went to school for this. I got you." Here's what the reality of the situation, and talking to them as a person, as a community member, not as a scientific symposium on mRNA or whatever. Having those real conversations with people is where it stands. Of course, our community health workers are trained on almost everything when it comes to the vaccine. We still bring in those medical professionals that our community can recognize. For those deeper conversations, Facebook lives have been a godsend.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What about President Biden? Here he was in our state. Does that make a difference? Does that carry weight with community?
Eliazar Posada: I can tell you from the moment we posted some of those pictures and let folks know that the president was here, and shared some of his remarks with our community members, those posts have blown up. Part of what we see is, again, folks recognizing that things are not going to change from one moment to the next. Not everyone is going feel comfortable attending or going into a government building, but seeing the president and an administration taking steps forward to build trust, to talk about the importance of reaching communities of color, and Latinx and immigrant community, talking about giving resources into this movement really of getting people vaccinated goes a long way.
I've received a lot of messages from folks who know me around the area, who are impressed, and they know that there's a lot of work to be done. There's still a lot of other things like an immigration reform and dealing with a lot of other issues that are important to our community. Having a president that takes time, shows up, and talks about the importance of our community is a milestone compared to what they've seen before.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Eliazar Posada, is the acting president and CEO of El Centro Hispano. Eliazar, thank you so much for joining us.
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