Personal phone calls started Monday to sign up about 1,000 Spanish-speaking seniors in El Paso County for a mass bilingual COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
The language barrier is overwhelming Hispanic and Latino seniors who want to get the vaccine, said Julissa Soto, director of statewide programs for Servicios de la Raza, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that has an office in Colorado Springs.
On top of that is the problem of vaccine hesitancy, she said, because many in the community believe the vaccine changes their DNA or has chlorine in it.
“We want to dispel the myths,” Soto said.
The inoculation clinic will be Feb. 19-20 at the county health department’s south location at 6436 S. Highway 85-87.
El Paso County Public Health and Environment will administer the vaccines, Soto said, with bilingual staff from the organization assisting.
Gov. Jared Polis’ office targeted 1,000 Moderna vaccines for the clinic, one of several the organization plans to hold statewide. Of those, 300 shots are to be administered the first day and the remaining 700 on the second day.
“The seniors have lots of fear that no one would speak their language and they wouldn’t be able to access the vaccine,” Soto said. “We are talking to them so they know the facts. We’re focusing on language access.”
Health equity and disparities were discussed at the county’s Jan. 27 Board of Health meeting, where Soto raised the importance of reaching out to the Spanish-speaking communinty in a culturally linguisitic way.
Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Yolanda Avila said she supported the effort to address any aversion to the vaccine and suggested promoting Black and Hispanic role models to be inoculated in public. Avila represents southeast Colorado Springs, which has a high concentration of Spanish-speaking residents.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found great concern about who would be willing to take get vaccine in Colorado, El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. said.
The study determined that while 70% of white Coloradans said they would get the COVID-19 vaccine, only 56% of Hispanics and 53% of Blacks said they intended to be inoculated.
Black and Hispanic communities continue to be infected with the virus at higher rates than whites, nationally and locally.
For more information on the vaccination clinics for elder Spanish-speaking adults in the community, email Soto at JulissaS@Serviciosdelaraza.org.