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Coronavirus Vaccine Doubts Prompt Multimillion Dollar Educational Campaign

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) -- A massive effort is underway across Southern California and the rest of the U.S. to change the minds of millions of Americans, particularly those in communities of color, who are skeptical about the safety of the coronavirus vaccine.

"It's an issue of trust," said John Bridgeland, the CEO of COVID Collaborative -- a coalition of health, education and economic experts.

According to a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, just over half of Latinos in the state say they would definitely or probably get the vaccine.

The number was significantly lower among African Americans, with only 29% saying they would definitely or probably get the coronavirus vaccine.

Bridgeland, who has worked in the White House under former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, heads the $50 million campaign known as COVID Collaborative that shares educational messaging about the safety of the coronavirus vaccine.

"To ensure that these vaccines become available that Americans of all backgrounds regions of the country... Regardless of levels of trust are well-educated have trusted local messengers like doctors and pharmacist and pastors," he said.

The collaborative was behind a viral message from former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush who said they would volunteer to take the coronavirus vaccine on camera to build public confidence.

The California Pan-Ethnic Health network, which according to its website is "collecting stories, quotes, and other information about what diverse Californians are experiencing during COVID-19," has been focusing on educating communities in the state that have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

"All of these communities of color are understandably hesitant based on any recent historic memory, being experimented on," said Monika Lee, the Communications Manager of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. "We have African Americans with the Tuskegee experiment. We have a history of forced sterilization on indigenous folk and Latinx folks as well."

The organization says that for some Latino and Filipino communities, the fear of using coronavirus resources, including the vaccine, is connected to their citizenship status.

"So, there are a lot of fears around public charge and around accessing resources they are able to access testing contact tracing and things like that but being fearful of coming forward and not being able to eventually get a citizenship or get a green card," Lee said.

The COVID Collaborative organization has also brought a coalition of governors to help coordinate messaging about coronavirus.

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