COVID-19 has been devastating for everybody, but even more so for the Latinx community. Colorado Public Health data shows that while non-Hispanic whites in the 70+ age group in Colorado have been vaccinated at a higher rate than their representation in the overall population, only about 5% of Hispanics in that same age group have been vaccinated, even though they represent almost 22% of the overall population.
Sheila Davis, the Health Equity Coordinator for Boulder County Public Health, says that the problem exists in our county as well, where vaccination rates for minority populations, including the Hispanic community, are much lower than those for dominant populations.
Listen to the Equity and Vaccines TRENDS podcast episode
COVID-19 has been devastating for everybody, but even more so for the Latinx community. Colorado Public Health data shows that while non-Hispanic whites in the 70+ age group in Colorado have been vaccinated at a higher rate than their representation in the overall population, only about 5% of Hispanics in that same age group have been vaccinated, even though they represent almost 22% of the overall population. Sheila Davis, the Health Equity Coordinator for Boulder County Public Health, says that the problem exists in our county as well, where vaccination rates for minority populations, including the Hispanic community, are much lower than those for dominant populations.
“I suspect it’s because traditional COVID vaccination strategies were designed for the dominant culture, that they were designed for people who have (medical) providers who can enroll in a vaccination through their provider,” says Davis.
Boulder City Council members are working to address the issue of unequal access to vaccines. Councilmembers Mary Young, Junie Joseph, and Mayor Sam Weaver drafted a letter with recommendations for equitable vaccine distribution.
“This came about, of course, because of what we have seen throughout the whole pandemic and what this pandemic has basically exposed, something that has been with us all along… the inequitable treatment of people of color and the data backs everything up,” says Councilmember Young.
Young says a significant piece of progress is the county’s mobile testing unit. “We wanted to make sure that mobile testing unit was going to the places that most needed the access to the testing,” she said.
Boulder County has also hired a cultural broker to do specific coronavirus outreach into the Latinx community. “I know they’ve been to places in Longmont, to a mobile home park in Longmont. And so the County has been working really hard to put in place the infrastructure that will enable them to have a more equitable approach to addressing the pandemic, both testing, and the vaccine,” says Young.
Debbie Salazar, Migrant Health Director with Salud Health Centers, says one issue is the information about the coronavirus that is made available to the Latinx community. “I feel like a lot of it is just misinformation or not receiving the information maybe at all, and then not receiving it so they will understand it culturally. So I think that’s part of the problem.”
Salazar says that fear is also an issue for the Latinx community. “If you’ve ever lived in a country where you don’t speak the language, there’s a lot of fear involved in trying to get access to medical care. So I think when they don’t know there’s an organization like Salud Family Health Centers, where we are bilingual and we are bicultural, and we do understand the people and we try to reach them where they’re at,” she says.
Rhina Rodriguez, a Latina healthcare worker that has been working at Salud for over 22 years, is well known among the Latinx community. She says building trust between the community and medical providers is crucial. “I believe the general consensus is fear. Fear. People are afraid.”
Susana Gonzalez, a patient at the Salud mobile unit, says there is a lot of misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine that is generating fear among the community. She says people need to trust their healthcare providers.
“I can’t tell you how important it is to get vaccinated. We get our children vaccinated, but now we’re afraid to be vaccinated ourselves…people are nervous about it, anxious about it, reading lies about this vaccination.”
To overcome some of these fears and lack of trust, Boulder County offers information in Spanish about access to Covid-19 testing and vaccines on their website. It has also made available people like Lizbeth Mendoza, a cultural broker for Boulder County Public Health, so people can get answers to their questions. She works with communities that have been marginalized and disadvantaged.
“Basically it’s learning what these communities need, what do they need? and bring that to planning specific strategies to bring the vaccine to them.”
It is critical that the most vulnerable populations obtain information that is true and trustworthy, in order to overcome their fears and doubts about the vaccine.
Not getting vaccinated may lead to further inequities, particularly for the Latinx community that is already so disproportionally impacted by the pandemic.
- Sheila Davis, Boulder County Public Health Equity Coordinator & Vicepresident of NAACP
- Mary Young, Council Member City of Boulder
- Deborah Salazar Migrant Health Director for Salud Family Health Center
- Rhina Rodriguez, Physician Assistant at Salud Family Center in Longmont
- Susana Gonzalez, License Profesional Counselor
- Lizbeth Mendoza, Cultural Broker & Equity Coordinator for Vaccination Division
- Chana Goussetis, Communication Manager at Boulder County Public Health
- Angela Simental, Bilingual Public Relations Specialist
The TRENDS podcast is a collaboration between the Community Foundation of Boulder County and KGNU. It dives deep into the community’s most pressing issues and explores the changes happening throughout Boulder County through the experiences of community members, especially those often rendered invisible by commercial media, to shed light on community challenges, solutions, and pathways forward for the county and the country.