Sec. Xavier Becerra visits Aurora vaccine clinic: ‘If you’re not safe…we’re not safe’

US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, addresses those in attendance about the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19, during a mobile clinic stop, June 18, 2021, in Aurora, CO.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra visited Aurora and toured a mobile vaccination clinic Friday as part of a push to encourage more people, particularly Latinos, to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

State health leaders say they want to meet unvaccinated people where they are, and more mobile clinics will help accomplish that.

Vaccination rates across the Aurora region are relatively high overall, with more than half of residents in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties fully vaccinated so far. Even so, vaccination rates for Latinos have steadily lagged behind. 

Only 28% of people who identify as Latino or Hispanic in Arapahoe County are vaccinated compared to 59% of white residents, and only 29% in Adams County compared to 62% of white residents, according to data from the Tri-County Health Department, which oversees health services for the three counties.

Aurora Congressman Jason Crow address reporters with US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, and Gov. Jared Polis, speaking about importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19, during a mobile clinic stop, June 18, 2021, in Aurora, CO.
Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

Heidi Fritz, Tri-County’s COVID-19 medical countermeasures branch director, said in a statement that the department is working with community organizations to get more Latinos access to the vaccine, and is putting out advertising to reach the Latino community.

Northwest Aurora, where Becerra and state politicos gathered Friday, has been designated a “high priority neighborhood” for community outreach due to its low vaccination rates, Fritz said.

Becerra said that many Latinos who haven’t been vaccinated yet do want to get the vaccine, but have a hard time taking time off of work or getting transportation to go get it.

They also have trouble trusting that it will be completely free, he said, because “they’re often the last to be served and the first to be exploited.”

At the event, Becerra and a gaggle of other state and local lawmakers, including Gov. Jared Polis and Aurora Congressman Jason Crow, toured a new mobile COVID-19 vaccination bus off of Chambers Avenue and Colfax Road.

The state originally had four mobile clinics, and because they have been so successful the state arranged for five more, Polis said. The buses are great to reach small towns that have no pharmacy and urban areas where people have trouble traveling to a clinic or vaccination site, he said.

So far, over 15,000 people have been vaccinated with mobile clinics, he said.

As lawmakers toured, a second bus was already up and running administering vaccinations right next to it.

An employee at the mobile clinic said that it was at a good location due to its setup next to the food trucks on East Colfax Ave. It received a steady number of patients throughout the afternoon but would hopefully increase as more people came by the area during the evening.

Health officials have said that getting people vaccinated is especially crucial now to protect against the emerging Delta variant of the virus, which is especially transmissible. 

Dr. John Douglas, Tri-County’s director, said the new variant concerns him.

“This is the time to take the threat of variants seriously,” he said.

Polis thanked Becerra for visiting Colorado and gifted him with a mask with the state health department’s logo, though he said he hoped he wouldn’t have to use it for long.

Becerra praised the Colorado delegation and urged everyone who has been vaccinated to check in on their relatives and loved ones and help them get vaccinated too.

“For those who have not yet been vaccinated…we will come to you,” he said. “If you’re not safe, not protected, then we’re not safe.”

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