Marion County to offer second multilingual COVID vaccine registration hotline

Indianapolis plans to offer its second all-day multilingual vaccination hotline starting Saturday, city and county officials announced Tuesday, as health disparities by race and ethnicity linger in local inoculation rates and case counts.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we must make it as convenient as possible for all residents to sign up for their vaccination, regardless of their native language or English proficiency,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a written statement.

Bilingual volunteers will staff the nine-language hotline, available in Arabic, Burmese, English, French, Hakha Chin, Mandarin, Spanish, Swahili and Yoruba. People from across Indiana can call (317) 327-2100 on Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for help getting an appointment.

A first Spanish-language hotline in March helped more than 800 people sign up to get vaccinated, according to the Marion County Public Health Department.

But non-white residents still lag behind their white counterparts on vaccinations, according to data from the health department’s COVID-19 dashboard. Between Dec. 15 and May 29, about 24% of the county’s Asian population, 21% of the Black population and 24% of the Hispanic and Latino population were fully vaccinated, in contrast to the 36% of white inhabitants.

And case rates among those groups remain disproportionately higher than for white residents. From April 24 to May 24, the health department recorded 13 daily average new cases among Asian people, 16 among Black people, 12 among Hispanic and Latino people, and nine among white people.

“It is still critical that we ensure the lifesaving protection of the COVID-19 vaccine reaches traditionally underserved members of our community through efforts like this multilingual hotline,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, the health department’s director and chief medical officer.

The city and health department have also launched a grant program for local organizations to combat vaccine hesitancy among underserved groups.

“We think by investing $1 million in our community-based organizations serving minority communities who are hesitant, our Latinx population who may be hesitant, that these organizations that reside in these neighborhoods, are involved in these same social networks, will be more trusted ambassadors, carrying out the message, addressing any myths and talking about the benefits and safety of the vaccine,” Caine said at a COVID-19 update in mid-April.

Grant awards are expected to be announced later this week, a health department spokesperson said Tuesday.

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