Dec 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Fighting COVID misinformation with cartoons

A cartoon of lotería cards, depicting what people will enjoy if they get vaccinated against COVID-19
Chicano cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz offers reasons to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in a play on the game Lotería.

Latinos are using cartoons to combat the coronavirus-related misinformation that is prominent in their communities.

Why it matters: The project, "COVID Latino," aims to disseminate COVID-related information to U.S. Latinos through art and social media posts that prominently feature visual staples of Latino culture, with an emphasis on the U.S. Southwest.

The health campaign was launched by social scientist Gilberto Lopez, who enlisted Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz to produce cartoons for the project.

  • Alcaraz told Axios that he believes Latinos are underserved medically and educationally, adding that they are often "targeted for misinformation, and consequently have lower rates of vaccination."
  • The website, launched in April, is largely funded through partnerships with academic and community-based organizations, including the Atlantic Institute and the California University Merced Nicotine and Cannabis Policy Center.

By the numbers: Latinos are almost three times as likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic white people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Latinos, however, only make up about 19% of people in the U.S. who have received at least one vaccine dose, per data from the CDC. The agency announced earlier this week that 60% of the entire U.S. population is fully inoculated against the virus.

Between the lines: Latinos are overrepresented in high-contact occupations, such as food, retail, service and health industries deemed "essential," Axios' Russell Contreras writes.

While social media platforms like Facebook often flag vaccine or COVID-related misinformation in English, the Washington Post found that much of the same content in Spanish takes days to get flagged.

  • Whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress that 87% of Facebook's misinformation spending is on English content, leaving only 13% devoted to false information in other languages.

What they're saying: "Cartoons are a great way to deliver a lot of information in one hit," Alcaraz told Axios. "It's an image that can stick with you."

  • Often, Spanish-dominant Latinos in the U.S. "don't get good information in their own language," he added.

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