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Marion County approved a $195,415 distribution to PCUN, the county's latest allotment of state funds to promote vaccines

The Marion County Board of Commissioners approved a contract of services with Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) during its Sept. 8 meeting to provide COVID-19 outreach services specifically related to vaccines with an emphasis on populations experiencing vaccine inequity.

The contract furnished PCUN with $195,415 in assistance, linked to the county's equity plan connected with the Oregon Health Authority, according to Marion County Health and Human Services Administrator Ryan Matthews. The outreach campaign provided through the funding runs through Dec. 31.

"The goal of the funding associated with the equity plan is to overcome vaccine hesitancy and support underserved populations to get information and access to the vaccine," Matthews said. "PCUN has been a partner throughout the pandemic. We've worked with them to help support our farmworker population, which is really critical to our economy and to our robust agricultural industry."

Matthews said the partnership will involve PCUN engaging with roughly 10,000 Latinx households via direct phone calls and community outreach to those they are unable to contact by phone. The advocacy group also is expected to launch a media campaign highlighting community service events and direct people to locations where vaccines are available.PMG FILE PHOTO - Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron

"They'll be working with our other community-based organizations to coordinate our effort to make sure that we're sharing a message that's really focused on promotion, education outreach and access to the vaccine," Matthews said. "Our hope is that as more information is shared in these communities from trusted sources, the people will make the best choice in terms of what is best for them; have an informed decision with all the data and information needed to make that decision."

The funding is part of a wider package that the county has distributed with the same aim. Two weeks earlier the BOC approved a handful of similar distributions, including $150,000 to Woodburn Ambulance to bolster efforts such as door-to-door vaccine administration and transportation to vaccine sites for vulnerable individuals.

PCUN Executive Director Reyna Lopez had been in discussions with the county commissioners about the farmworker advocacy group's strong position to implement this type of outreach.

"I'm glad we are finally getting this out to them so they can get this going," Commissioner Kevin Cameron said. "These dollars came through the state for this purpose — for us to get them out to our community partners to help get the vaccines done."PMG FILE PHOTO - Reyna Lopez is the executive director of Oregon's PCUN Latinx political group.

Lopez said PCUN has been heavily involved with COVID-19 issues from the onset with constant meetings, checking the trends and ensuring personal protective equipment is available. She said the biggest challenge with vaccinations is information — or perhaps misinformation. Misinformed reasons for reluctance they've discovered include vaccination costs and lack of insurance, concerns about immigration or documentation papers, and beliefs that the vaccination will make people sick or infertile.

PCUN plans to hire 10 temporary workers for 10 weeks to contact thousands of Hispanic and Latinx community members to ensure they have accurate information, and if they are unvaccinated, connect them with a source to get inoculated.

Despite the challenges, PCUN and its partners have been capably negotiating the pandemic issues.

"Vaccination rates are little bit above the state average for the Hispanic and Latinx community," Lopez said, citing data for Marion and Polk counties. "We are doing a little bit better than the state average, and a lot of that is probably Woodburn. In Woodburn you see people taking this seriously."

Matthews said the county health department follows up with the funded entities to monitor the effectiveness of the outreach campaigns.

"We absolutely will be following up and working closely with them throughout the process," he said. "We want to see what is successful, because if we find things that are successful, we can replicate those."


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