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COVID In Colorado: Activist Helps Thousands Of Latinos Get Vaccinated, 'Still Has Work To Do'

(CBS4) - Despite many of the state's COVID-19 services going away, many Latinos in Colorado are still not vaccinated.

Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows that only about 39% of the state's Latino population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Latinos have the lowest vaccination rate compared to any other ethnic or racial group in the state.

"We know the Latino population is behind," said Brandy Emily, the health equity branch chief with CDPHE. "Historically there have been systems and policies that have made it really challenging to access health care, that have made it scary in some ways for some of our Latino communities to receive health care and services."

But many people are still trying to change that, like health equity consultant Julissa Soto. For the past two years, she's gone to churches, clubs and carnicerias (meat markets) trying to convince Latinos to get vaccinated. She's helped vaccinate more than 13,000 Latinos in the state, including many who are undocumented.

Julissa Soto (3)
(credit: CBS)

"I noticed that many of agencies who were receiving lots of funding to fight this disease were not reaching the Latino community in a culturally relevant way," Soto said. "They really can't believe that is a lady there wanting to vaccinate."

While Soto has worked to meet Latinos where they're at she said from the state level it's been a challenge.

"We have been doing a poor job expecting the community to come to us," Soto added.

With all of Colorado's mass vaccination sites closing this week, some wonder if it will negatively impact the Latino community.

"I don't think so and the reason I say that is because the access and the people that are accessing our large community sites has really declined," Emily said.

Emily said that most Latinos are accessing vaccines through other non-traditional sources like mobile vaccination sites, health fairs and through community-based organizations which aren't going away yet and Soto agrees. But she fears with Gov. Jared Polis stating we're in a "new chapter," and with many services phasing out, the Latino community will be forgotten about.

"It's over for the Anglo community, but it's not over for the Latino community," said Soto. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Julissa Soto (1)
(credit: CBS)

CDPHE said no matter where you get a vaccine moving forward, they will continue to be free to all. Along with finding a vaccine through a non-traditional way, you can also go to a provider.

Soto is hosting several vaccination clinic throughout the month of April including:

• April 3 and 10: 15200 E. Colfax Ave, Aurora, CO, 80011 from 12pm to 7pm
• April 17: 6690 E. 72nd Ave, Commerce City, CO, 80022 from 8:30 to 4pm
• April 24: 19099 E. Floyd Ave, Aurora, CO, 80013 from 10:30am to 5pm

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