Attempts to reach Latino communities with COVID-19 vaccines

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With more COVID-19 vaccines arriving in Ohio, targeting Black and brown communities is even more crucial.

According to OhioHealth’s Infectious Disease Physician, Dr. Edwin Vargas, Ohio’s population is approximately 4 percent Latino. Of those, about 2.3 percent of Latinos have gotten the vaccine.

Vargas said many factors tie into why there is a lower number of Latino and Latinx vaccine recipients. For starters, the vaccine distribution is new and not everyone qualifies.

However, for those who do and are hesitant, it comes down to three issues: healthcare access, language barriers, and mistrust.

“Some of my patients do have poor access to care,” Vargas said. “Some others, despite knowing that they have the virus, they don’t have the way of isolating at home because they live in multigenerational homes where it is hard to isolate.”

As far as the language barrier, Ohio needs to add more translational resources both online and in print, Vargas said.

“Lack of access to good information,” he said. “A lot of things are in English and some are in Spanish, but there is a level of literacy that you are required to understand. Do not know where to consult. Where to look them up. From what I know, we’ve been trying to reach out, trying to provide information both in Spanish and English. We’ve been trying to answer questions as much as possible.”

To Vargas, representation matters, saying there is a need for more doctors who look like members of Black and brown communities. Through this, it’ll be easier to earn trust and have patients be open with their questions. One of those examples is documentation status and how it plays a role into vaccinations.

“The official statement from the Department of Homeland Security, as of Feb. 1, is that there shouldn’t be any discrimination in terms of race or ethnicity or any other type of social condition,” Vargas said. “They are encouraging for people without a legal status to get vaccinated.”

He added all they need is proof of ID.

“They can show just a regular identification to get the vaccination,” Vargas said. “ICE is not going to run any operations on any doctor facilities. The people who don’t have legal status should be confident they can go and get a vaccine. We’re not asking for legal status in our institution.”

For more information or additional resources visit https://www.ohiohealth.com/ or call the OhioHealth COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 614-533-6999 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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