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Black, Latino and Asian primary care physicians in New York City are teaming with Marvel’s Avengers to educate the public around vaccination as part of a wider outreach effort across the city to inspire and increase vaccine confidence within underserved communities.
A collaboration between Marvel Entertainment and SOMOS Community Care — New York City’s leading physician-led network of community doctors — the campaign, which launches today, will include the distribution of a limited edition comic book, Avengers: We Are Resilient, which was written by Henry Barajas, with art by Craig Rousseau and colors by Chris Sotomayor. Additionally, there will be a poster series and in-person events for families to learn about the vaccine.
“Marvel has always told stories to entertain, inspire and reflect the world around us. As many communities continue to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, it was important to us to help promote vaccine awareness and confidence in New York City,” said Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Entertainment. “We are thrilled to collaborate with SOMOS Community Care for this new comic book and campaign to continue to educate and encourage our communities during these trying times.”
SOMOS will distribute the 20,000 comic books and 20,000 lithographs, in addition to releasing a video comic, which will tell a story of the Avengers, front line health care heroes and a Latino family as they unite in an effort to distribute information about and inspire trust of vaccines within the Black, brown and Latino communities. The first-of-its-kind national information campaign around COVID-19 vaccinations will also feature a pop-up vaccination site in Times Square, hosted by SOMOS.
“SOMOS’ partnership with NYC has been instrumental in avenging our city in the wake of this virus,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Like the shields and armor that our favorite superheroes wear, vaccines protect ourselves and those around us from the enemy – COVID-19.”
Through a grassroots mobilization strategy, SOMOS doctors aim to overcome mistrust and hesitancy as vaccination rates plateau nationwide amid the rise in delta variant-related cases. The network’s 2,500 Black, Latino, and Asian community doctors have operated over 70 trilingual testing sites nationwide and administered over 1.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine across nearly 200 vaccine sites. That includes sites held at local landmarks like Yankee Stadium and Grand Central Station, in addition to churches, schools, parks and public housing, where the group has been able to reach seniors, municipal workers, healthcare workers, and vulnerable communities of color.
“This pandemic has made clear that superheroes aren’t just in comic books, some wear white lab coats and stethoscopes and put the shots in arms we need to keep our communities safe and healthy during a pandemic that has raged on for nearly two years now. In the same way our doctors are trusted by the families we have treated for generations, Marvel is embedded in American households and culture — offering community through cultural icons and intergenerational heroes. I am so grateful to my friend and partner Henry Muñoz for uniting Team SOMOS and The Avengers in this mission for the health of our communities,” Dr. Ramon Tallaj, chairman and founder of SOMOS Community Care, said in a statement.
The campaign was created by Funny Or Die studio head, activist and co-founder of SOMOS US Henry R. Muñoz, II and is slated to run through Hispanic Heritage Month. Muñoz told The Hollywood Reporter that the collaboration was an idea planted as far back as the start of the pandemic, in March 2020.
“There was clearly a need to reach out to young people, and to reach out to people of color,” he said. “We know even today, not just in the poorest neighborhoods of New York, but in neighborhoods all across the country, the young people who need the vaccination to be able to go back to school or to return home to their parents and their grandparents are the kids who are having the hardest time.”
“Knowing that vaccines are really an essential part of the answer, I went to Disney and Marvel and asked them if they would lend us The Avengers to be our ambassadors,” he continued.
The decision to choose the comic book as the medium the campaign uses to encourage vaccine education and trust was in part about its high profile heroes, but also about the growing diversity of comics and the reliability of its heroic stories.
“Taking a comic, which is accessible — not that expensive, people know what it is and that always has this story embedded, in this case, good versus evil, the evil being this very destructive virus — just seemed like the right instinct. To people not only in the United States but around the world understand comics and people around the world know the Avengers,” he said. “Some of the newest superheroes affiliated with The Avengers family are people of color, too, and I think it’s really important, quite honestly, for that little boy or that little girl who’s probably nervous about going back to school, whose mom and dad or grandparents are nervous about sending them back to school, to understand that they can be a hero, they can be a superhero.”
The decision to position the pop-vaccination clinic in a high-profile place was equally about name recognition and the intersection of cultural representation. “It’s an iconic space that people understand and know all over the world. It’s the place where we come together,” Muñoz said. “There’s a hopefulness, I think, to it. Even if you’ve never been to New York City. It’s a place of cotton cross-cultural interaction, and it’s a place where you probably are used to seeing a superhero costume.”
While the current campaign is only slated to last three months, Muñoz says that it’s the first step towards more public health and entertainment collaborations for SOMOS.
“I think it’s only the beginning of what collaborations between everyday heroes and superheroes can accomplish,” he stated. “Not just in COVID, but in the health of communities of color, there is a need to create jobs, put businesses back to work, to get kids back to school in this moment but also to reverse the damage that has been done in education to a whole generation of young people. So we’re going to have to keep thinking and collaborating and partnering.”
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