Building Trust with Community Health Ambassadors

When the news that COVID-19 vaccines were approved, many doubts, confusion, and fears arose among the public.

In New Brunswick, in particular, fears from fertility issues to long-term side effects spread from resident to resident. To ensure the community was armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision, New Brunswick Tomorrow (NBT) engaged our resident-led outreach team to drive an information campaign in the community. Their goal has been to help residents understand the virus, help understand the vaccines and their effects, and help provide resources.

Yadira Garcia, a Latina woman who works in a factory and mother of 2 children, represents the residents who feared the vaccine the most. Despite urgings from her eldest son to take the vaccine, negative comments from her work colleagues and other acquaintances made her doubt the safety of the vaccine.

Our Community Health Ambassador (CHA) team has trained to navigate many different systems to help our residents get through some of the most challenging issues they face. However, more important than the knowledge they've acquired is the trust they've built among their peer residents. CHAs are a trusted resource in the city for many who call NewBrunswick home. Due to that trust, Yadira reached out to one of our community health ambassadors.  

Though she was distressed about all the rumors surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccines, instead of letting fear make her decision, she came to our CHA, Rosabel Pastrana, looking for information. Her concerns mirrored the concerns we had seen in the community. More broadly, she worried if the vaccine was safe, but she also worried if they were using the vaccine to inject you with a microchip or even inject the virus itself.Ultimately, the conversation between Yadira and Rosabel led to the vaccine's side effects, which was one of her main apprehensions.  

"Yadira was very concerned about the side effects of the vaccine," Rosabel said, "I told her that I understood her fears and doubts, and I wanted to invite her to an information session led by health experts in the community where she could learn more and ask questions."

The Vaccine Week information sessions covered different aspects of the COVID-19 vaccines, such as the development of the vaccine, the side effects that can be expected after being vaccinated, and the myths and realities of the vaccine. Not only were there health experts to provide all this information but our CHA team also participated by sharing their own experiences getting the vaccine.

Though Yadira had doubts about the vaccine, her confidence in Rosabel led her to be one of the first to connect to our information session and ask questions. When the sessions finished, she calledRosabel to thank her for the invitation as the information she had gained helped her clear her doubts. She was now ready to get her vaccine.

Our CHAs involvement with Yadira and her family did not stop there. As a critical lifeline to the community, not only do the CHAs provide the community with the information they need, but they also connect these individuals to services. Once Yadira was ready, Rosabel registered her and her 20-year old son for a vaccine appointment at a location near her home, ensuring it was a Spanish-speaking location to make Yadira as comfortable as possible.

After confirming her appointment at the vaccine clinic that had recently been opened for the community at Robert Wood JohnsonUniversity Hospital, Rosabel called her to give her the date and time of her and her child's appointment. The day before Yadira's appointment, Rosabel followed up with her to offer her support.

"I remember that Yadira told me, 'Of course I remember that tomorrow is my appointment and I am nervous.' and I reassured her," Rosabel said. She reminded Yadira that there would be people who speak Spanish, the Community Health Ambassador team would also be present, and she could call me if she needed anything.

On the day of her appointment, Yadira called Rosabel to tell her that she and her son were vaccinated painlessly. She thanked Rosabel and the whole team for their help to ease her doubts.

"Now I know that much of what they say on social networks is a lie and only causes people to be fearful," Yadira toldRosabel after getting her vaccine. After her positive experience, she askedRosabel to notify her when ten-year-olds would be able to receive the vaccine as her youngest child has asthma.

Despite her previous doubts, Yadira has become a proponent of the vaccine. By sharing her experience, she has helped her co-workers, acquaintances, and family make a more informed decision to get vaccinated.Those who chose to get vaccinated were referred to Rosabel by Yadira, demonstrating the trust and respect that the community has in our CommunityHealth Ambassador team.

Undoubtedly, Yadira's experience was a solid and decisive factor for many in her circle to decide to get vaccinated, which could not have been accomplished without our team of CHAs engaging with the community authentically and meaningfully.

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December 20, 2021

Contributors to this post

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