Oregon pharmacies are better equipped to bring empathy, equity and effectiveness to the COVID-19 vaccination process and their Latinx patients thanks to Oregon State University third-year pharmacy student Daniela Olivas Shaw.

The Lebanon resident spearheaded two College of Pharmacy-produced educational videos, both released in February: one for pharmacy professionals to assist in caring for Spanish speakers, the other for patients that explains the vaccines in plain language.

It’s all about helping to ensure important information is communicated in ways intended audiences can understand, Olivas Shaw says. In Oregon that means not just relying on translation software or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documents that use “Spain Spanish” and are filled with words Oregon’s Latin American Spanish speakers don’t know, she said.

“When I started as a pharmacy intern a year ago, I quickly realized I wasn’t familiar with some of the translated medical terminology,” said Olivas Shaw, a native Spanish speaker who grew up in Driggs, Idaho. “Some of the terms on a drug’s information sheet were different than the words I needed to use to make sure the patient understood the instructions.”

Olivas Shaw subsequently launched a project to help her fellow students better counsel patients in Spanish regarding commonly used medications. She put that work on hold, though, when Paige Clark, the college’s director of continuing education, asked her to tackle the messaging problems related to COVID-19 vaccinations in a state where Latinx people account for 13% of the population, 26% of the COVID-19 cases and 6% of those vaccinated.

Olivas Shaw spent weeks researching Spanish-language materials available on the websites of the CDC, the Oregon Health Authority and local health departments in areas with large Latinx populations and found most to be lacking.

“First I made a tool kit for providers: information in Spanish including manufacturer information regarding the vaccines, side effect information, summaries of the differences between the vaccines and a compilation of commonly asked questions by Latinx folks,” she said. “I also created a cheat sheet that contained common screening questions that could be read out loud by a translator to patients who understand spoken Spanish but don’t read it, like the Guatemalan population in Corvallis. Once all of that was done I presented everything to Paige and we brainstormed the videos.”

The video for providers helps them navigate caring for folks who often get lumped together as “Hispanic” but have many different customs that need to be recognized and respected, Olivas Shaw said.

“The second video is targeted to folks who are on the fence about getting vaccinated or waiting to be vaccinated,” she said. “It has information about the different vaccines, expectations at their appointment, possible adverse effects and receipt of their vaccination card, as well as some answers to frequently asked questions.”

College of Pharmacy alumnus Omar Avila was the videos’ executive editor.

“He provided extraordinary help from his expertise as a pharmacist serving a largely Latinx population in Woodburn,” Olivas Shaw said. “We’re grateful for everyone’s efforts to help the College of Pharmacy bring equity to the vaccination process.”

-Steve Lundeberg