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Gainesville’s Norma Hernandez part of DPH’s ‘health equity council’ for COVID vaccine
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Norma Hernandez is the president of the Northeast Georgia Latino Chamber of Commerce part of a “health equity council” established by the Department of Public Health concerning the COVID-19 vaccine. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville’s Norma Hernandez has been named part of a “health equity council” established by the Georgia Department of Public Health concerning the COVID-19 vaccine.

DPH announced the council Feb. 25 and said its purpose is to reach “communities of color and our most vulnerable populations with the goal of addressing concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“We must make sure our most vulnerable populations understand the benefits of the vaccine – for themselves, their families and their communities,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in part of a statement.

Hernandez, who is the president of the Northeast Georgia Latino Chamber of Commerce, said she recently had a call with District 2 Public Health Director Dr. Zachary Taylor concerning outreach efforts in the Latino community.

“We decided that we will be approaching churches for them to put the vaccine information in their bulletins,” Hernandez said. “We’re going to try to get information to the poultry plants so they will distribute to the workers.”

DPH cited research in a news release that showed 38% of Hispanic Georgians did not intend to receive the vaccine, and 28% of those surveyed expressed “doubt in its efficacy.”

The same survey showed 34% of the Hispanic male Georgians said clear messaging about vaccine’s safety would sway them, according to a DPH news release.

The Times has reached out to DPH to get more information on that research and when it was performed.

Hernandez said she and others were working on a video messaging campaign with local faith and medical leaders, as well as printing bilingual educational materials.

She said the effort would be similar to the “No Mask, No Service” effort from last year, where they worked with taxi companies, grocery stores and others to spread the word about COVID-19 safety measures. 

Dozens of businesses signed on to that pledge last year, as Hernandez and the Gainesville Against COVID-19 task force distributed thousands of masks to the community.

Hernandez said they also have set a date of March 13 to perform vaccinations at the Gainesville Ballroom on Atlanta Highway. She said it would be open to anyone in the 1A+ vaccination phase, plus the recent additions named by Gov. Brian Kemp last week.

Starting March 8, preschool and K-12 school employees, parents and children with complex medical conditions and adults with intellectual disabilities, as well as caregivers, are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 1A+ group so far has allowed health care workers, first responders and those ages 65 and older to receive the vaccine in Georgia.