In border region, questions about speedy development, mRNA technology drive vaccine hesitancy

Paso del Norte Health Foundation has enlisted help from trained community health workers to dispel myths in growing number of communities in West Texas, Southern New Mexico

El Paso, Texas, UNITED STATES


EL PASO, Texas, March 24, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Residents of the El Paso-Las Cruces region on the U.S.-Mexico Border who are hesitant to be vaccinated against COVID-19 cited skepticism over how quickly vaccines were brought to market and incorrect information about the way mRNA vaccines help your body combat the disease, according to focus groups recently conducted by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PDNHF) as part of its Reduce the Risk campaign.

“While approximately 70 percent of those who responded to our recruitment expressed an interest in being vaccinated, our bilingual virtual focus groups sought to better understand why the remaining thirty percent were hesitant to do so,” said Dr. Theodore Cooper, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso who oversaw the focus groups. “Despite there being no evidence supporting either claim, participants indicated they did not believe the vaccines were safe because they were developed so quickly, while others worried that vaccines developed using mRNA technology, like the popular Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, may alter their own DNA.”

Vaccine skeptics also indicated a misunderstanding of the role vaccines can play in promoting community resiliency.

“A common refrain we heard was, ‘Why should I get vaccinated if I still have to wear a mask?’,” Cooper said. “When we talked about how vaccination gives the virus fewer ways to spread, focus group participants indicated they would consider becoming vaccinated as a way to keep their families, friends and loved ones healthy.”

Participants also indicated privacy concerns, lack of access to transportation and childcare, and concerns over immigration status as barriers to becoming vaccinated.

PDNHF will use the findings to refine messaging associated with the Reduce the Risk campaign which includes targeted social media ads and in-person interactions with trained community health workers or promotoras. Since the inception of the Reduce the Risk campaign, promotora outreach has extended from El Paso County to Doña Ana County, Hudspeth County and Moore County in the Texas panhandle.

 “This research utilizes the widely-accepted Health Belief Model to understand how people’s perceptions about risk, severity, benefits, barriers and self-efficacy inform the actions they take,” said Dr. Michael Kelly, Vice President of Programs at the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “By focusing our efforts on what understandings and misunderstandings exist in our region, we can more effectively provide information which will help achieve a critical mass of vaccinations.”

Other participants in the campaign include El Paso County, the City of El Paso, the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, UTEP’s Border Biomedical Research Center, Texas A&M University’s Colonias Program, the National COVID-19 Resiliency Network, Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and the Empowerment Congress of Doña Ana County.

Information being provided by promotoras as well as the complete focus group report is available for download at ReducetheRisk915.org.

About the Paso del Norte Health Foundation

The Paso del Norte Health Foundation leads, leverages and invests in initiatives, programs and policies that promote health and prevent disease in the Paso del Norte region. The Paso del Norte Health Foundation operates in a unique binational environment, which stretches across two countries and three states. This region serves the 2.4 million people living in El Paso and Hudspeth Counties in far west Texas, Doña Ana, Luna, and Otero Counties in southern New Mexico, and the municipality of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. For more information, visit https://pdnhf.org/.

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As part of the Reduce the Risk Campaign, trained community health workers or promotoras provide information on public health measures to traditionally hard-to-reach communities in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. Recent focus group findings will all for refined messaging related to vaccine hesitancy. As part of the Reduce the Risk Campaign, trained community health workers or promotoras provide information on public health measures to traditionally hard-to-reach communities in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. Recent focus group findings will all for refined messaging related to vaccine hesitancy.

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