Date of Graduation

Summer 8-18-2022

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Nursing and Health Professions

First Advisor

Kelly McDermott

Second Advisor

Teri Boughton-DeBencik


With over one million confirmed deaths from COVID-19, the United States (U.S.) continues to battle the public health crisis arising from the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economic, social, and health systems. Social distancing efforts and other precautionary measures such as mask-wearing have not sufficiently reduced morbidity and mortality from COVID-19; thus, COVID-19 vaccinations are an important tool for substantially alleviating the effects of the pandemic. Although COVID-19 vaccines are available to all Americans aged six months and older, many individuals are hesitant to receive vaccines. The two most common reasons for vaccine hesitancy are some individuals do not think the vaccine is safe and some believe it’s not effective. Vaccine hesitancy is more common among disadvantaged communities of color and Latinos. In order to decrease vaccine hesitancy, the government and larger healthcare agencies must invest in local community-based programs. These organizations play an important role in educating hard-to-reach and vulnerable communities to deliver factual and scientific information in a culturally appropriate manner. This capstone paper addresses the role of community based organizations to increase vaccine confidence. Specifically, a COVID-19 youth ambassador corps program is being implemented at Health Education Council (HEC), a non-profit organization based in South Sacramento, to recruit trainees from target communities to provide scientific and evidenced- based education on COVID-19 vaccination. HEC utilized funding from a local Medicaid Managed Care Plan, Partnership Health Plan’s (PHP’s) COVID19 Community Grant Incentives program to target the unvaccinated population in PHC’s Medi-Cal service region. Using principles from HEC’s Peers Helping Peers Program, HEC created and launched a “Youth Vaccine Ambassador Corps'' which mobilized and trained local PHC/Medi-Cal youth ages 17-24 to develop and share pro-vaccine messages to educate their local community.