By Angelina Sang and Samuel Van Blaricom
ALAMEDA, CA – Local community leaders and organizations have collaborated with the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office to create educational videos for incarcerated persons that targets COVID-19 vaccine skepticism at Santa Rita County Jail.
Specifically, the video emphasizes how the vaccine is necessary to avoid severe disease, hospitalization and death. A link to the video here: https://youtu.be/e1YFJP7i8Sk
Stephen Texiera, an Oakland/Bay Area photographer, spearheaded the production, along with a coalition that includes Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Urban Peace Movement, Homies Empowerment Project, The Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, and the Health Care Services Agency.
The video, containing parts in both English and Spanish, focuses on alleviating fears that some incarcerated persons might have and stresses the value of receiving the vaccine by presenting leaders of local organizations explaining their own decisions to get vaccinated.
“Our clients are understandably skeptical of the vaccines due to the oppression, racism and economic injustices that most of them have faced throughout their lives. These experiences make them suspicious of anyone trying to tell them to do something because ‘it’s good for you,’ We’re hoping to push against that by showcasing real leaders with real credibility,” said Alameda County Chief Public Defender Brendon Woods.
Featured in the video, Dr. Caesar Cruz, co-founder of Homies Empowerment Project, articulates key fears individuals might have regarding the vaccine saying “What if the government is lying to us? This hasn’t really been tested this long.”
After recounting the loss of close family members due to Covid-19, Cruz says the virus scared him and he “started to read the science behind it. I started to see other people get vaccinated. I realized that many doctors and nurses are vaccinated, so all of those things alleviate my fears.”
Cruz finishes by telling his audience he always “masks-up” and has been vaccinated, encouraging others to do the same.
In another section of the video, Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, tells his audience “he’s one of the rare people that has been convicted of first degree murder that actually is the head of a public law office.”
Nunn says “If you get out there and don’t take that vaccination, just assume that sooner or later you’re going to get caught because this disease is still spreading.”
As of Nov. 3, Alameda County has one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, with 82 percent of people 12 and older fully vaccinated, as reported by the New York Times.
However, the rate among incarcerated individuals at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail is much lower, standing at 25.7 percent as of Oct. 22, according to the Davis Vanguard.
In an effort to boost vaccination rates, vaccines are available at no cost to anyone who comes through the jail, regardless of immigration status.
“We’ve consistently prioritized our incarcerated clients ever since scientists developed and federal regulators authorized the vaccines for use,” Woods said. “Now we want to educate people who remain skeptical in order to get as many people vaccinated as possible and get this awful pandemic behind us.”
This is not the first time that the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office has made an effort to help educate the Santa Rita Jail population. In preparation for the Nov. 2020 election, it also helped to develop an educational video about registering to vote.