In 2020, with successful efforts underway through the Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar initiative, the Latino Health Initiative wanted to expand access to COVID-19 vaccination for Latinos and other population groups in Montgomery County, Maryland. Communications Shop crafted and executed Teatro Callejero, or Street Theater, an innovative skit intended to inform the Spanish-speaking community about the dangers of the COVID-19 virus and how and where to get free vaccinations in the County. It was a parallel component to the ample outreach and awareness work through the COVID-19 communications campaign, featuring pop-up presentations across Montgomery County, from shopping malls to community laundromats, food distribution centers, and apartment complexes, to help dissipate myths and misconceptions about the vaccine and provide reliable information to lower COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy.
Teatro Callejero’s lead character was Pedro Biaggi, a beloved local Spanish radio personality, who interacted with a COVID-19 virus character in costume, played by radio personality Ary Mondragón.
During their humorous yet thought-provoking conversation, and with the support of local health promoters and other trusted clinical partners from Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar, the team used the opportunity to provide vaccine information and encourage the public to get vaccinated in mobile, on-site immunization areas, which were the active service components of the initiative.
In June 2020, Latinos made up more than half of all COVID-19 infections in the County, even though they made up only one-fifth of the population. But thanks to the efforts of the Latino Health Initiative and Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar and its partners in creating a comprehensive campaign and engaging original material like the character of La Abuelina and efforts like Teatro Callejero, COVID-19 cases have been dramatically reduced, according to October 2021 data. As a result, the vaccination rates for Latinos in Montgomery County grew significantly from a gap of 20% with White non-Latino residents in March 2021 to 15% above White non-Latino County residents in October 2021.