AURORA | A Hispanic community organization is aiming to deliver COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of 50,000 Spanish-speaking residents mostly in Aurora and Commerce City by the summer.
The project is focusing on addressing an already low vaccination rate among Hispanics in the region.
Adelante Community Development, a Commerce City-based business and community assistance group for Hispanic residents, is in talks with the City of Aurora to find a location for regular COVID-19 vaccination clinics that would cater to Latinx Aurorans.
It’s not currently clear where the clinics would be. Adelante Chief Executive Officer Maria Gonzalez said some possible locations included Rangeview and Overland high schools as well as an Arapahoe County building in Aurora. City staff said Wednesday during a meeting with lawmakers that they were considering using city hall itself as a scaled-up, drive-through vaccination spot.
“We look forward to any opportunity to aid our community partners, including Adelante, in their vaccination efforts, however there are no details to share,” city spokesperson Ryan Luby said in an email to the Sentinel. “The ideas are simply ideas at this time.
Gonzalez said Adelante is slated to receive 6,000 vaccine doses every other week for its Aurora operation from the state.
That’s on top of a regular vaccination clinic that’s already delivered shots mostly to Spanish speakers and Hispanic locals at the Mile High Flea Market in Henderson. And that’s where staff presented Gov. Jared Polis with a coronavirus-shaped piñata last month, which he viciously attacked in good humor.
I’ve never wanted to hit a piñata more than this one. pic.twitter.com/zYZbAelFND
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) February 26, 2021
Gonzalez’s ambitions are motivated by a lagging vaccination rate among Hispanic people in the region compared to other ethnicities.
This week, less than 6% of the Hispanic population had received one vaccination shot in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas County. That’s compared with 14% of Black residents, 25% of white residents and more than 38% of non-Hispanic, multi-racial residents.
That’s probably rooted in an amalgam of community distrust but also barriers to traditional vaccination events. Gonzalez pushed back against the argument that Latinx Aurorans “don’t want the vaccine.”
“That’s not true, and it’s unfair. We want to get vaccinated. We just don’t have access,” she said.
And she thinks that community-based health clinics like STRIDE and Salud in Aurora, as well as various pop-up sites at trusted community centers, aren’t enough to address the stark shortfall. That’s a failure of Polis’ administration and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, she said.
“The state hasn’t done enough. We really need some more support and understanding that our minority population has a different process to be outreached to,” she added.
She said that Adelante staff essentially reserve the vaccine for Latinx and Spanish-speaking people, so it’s unlikely that someone from outside of the community would be able to snag a vaccine through their planned clinics. Staff require a pre-registration process that isn’t shared with the general public; they only work directly with the population they’re trying to reach.
Effectively reserving vaccines for certain people is a murky region of the vaccine rollout. State health department officials told the Sentinel last week that no shot providers should create any barriers to obtaining a vaccine on the basis of residency or other demographics; at the same time, officials are steering more doses specifically to efforts like Adelante because of the broader public health windfall.
Gonzalez said that the group’s first regular clinic in Aurora should be up and running by early April. Adelante also aims to reach Hispanic residents in area mobile home parks and ranches in the push.