OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – As spikes in COVID cases continue due to the delta variant, an ambassador program in the East Bay is extending its boots-on-the-ground approach to educating the community about the vaccine and helping people sign up.

It’s a collaboration between UCSF, La Clinica De La Raza and the Unity Council in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood — One of the hardest-hit areas by COVID.

Some people on the fence about the vaccine are starting to make their decision.

Walking around Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, you’ve probably seen the community vaccine ambassadors, educating residents about the vaccine and reducing barriers to get the shot.

While they anticipated this to be a summer program, they’re now extending their efforts due to the rising delta variant cases. 

“We are at the hardest phase because I think in the beginning was the lack of access and then we moved into removing barriers. The hardest part is they’re trying to now convince people who don’t want to get vaccinated so instead of you know a 15-minute conversation and people say yes but I don’t know how to make the appointment has turned into a longer conversation or tell me your concerns, why are you feeling this way, let me tell you the facts,” Itzel Diaz said. 

Itzel Diaz is with the Unity Council, an organization that works on this program in partnership with UCSF and La Clinica De La Raza to reduce fears or hesitation of the vaccine in predominantly communities of color.

“A lot of areas already reached 70% vaccination. Last time I checked the data for the neighborhoods that we serve we are still below 60% and those are predominantly Latino, Black, AAPI neighborhoods,” Diaz said. 

To help people better understand the safety of the vaccine, UCSF doctors like Alicia Fernandez trained 40-some college student ambassadors who go door-to-door answering questions from the community.

“Some people are concerned because they’re hearing people who’ve been vaccinated have had breakthrough cases of COVID and some people are saying see the vaccine doesn’t work so why should I bother to get it and that makes no sense at all. It’s like saying seat belts don’t work because some people still die in car crashes, well seat belts make cars a lot safer and yes some people still die in car crashes, and the same way the vaccines provide wonderful protection against COVID,” Fernandez said. 

While the Oakland Fruitvale Ambassadors have been met by many people on the fence or unwilling to get the vaccine, they say their recent efforts during this rise in cases have helped many make educated decisions to protect themselves against the virus.

“We’re going to continue to do the work until we know everyone in our community is vaccinated. We know that the communities we serve, low income, immigrant, communities of color are very vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic,” Diaz said.