DENVER (CBS4) – A three-day-long drive thru vaccination event in southwest Denver was one of several being held this weekend geared toward closing the race and class gap in vaccine distribution.
The event began Friday outside Saint Cajetan Catholic Church and will finish up Sunday. The parish has been around for nearly a century, and a large part of the congregation is Latino.
"We started thinking about, what are some places we can actually utilize in the communities that need it the most where we can set up a site?" said State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, who helped organize the event.
This is the second event planned by a group of Latina leaders from around the Denver area. The first was at Servicios De La Raza last weekend.
The group includes State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, State Sen. Julie Gonzales, city council members Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres, and Denver Public Schools board member Angela Cobián, as well as some high school and college students. National Jewish Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also helped with getting the vaccines and administering them.
"Having the representation that these communities have, we were able to advocate for what the needs are," said Gonzales-Gutierrez.
The goal for the three day event is to vaccinate more than 1,000 people. While anyone who was able to book an appointment was welcome, the goal was to target the Latino community, which, according to data from Denver Public Health, is seeing lower vaccination rates than other communities so far.
"Lack of resources and access have been one of the main issues, as well as language," said Gonzales-Gutierrez. "Also, in some of our immigrant population there's a fear of coming forward and lack of trust in our government because of the last four years."
During a visit on Saturday, Gov. Jared Polis acknowledged the disparities and praised those trying to fix it.
"I think clinics like this and the great work of outreach teams, high schoolers like Melanie, churches and so many others, are really helping us make sure everybody can access this life saving vaccine," Polis said.
According to city council member Amanda Sandoval, the biggest lesson learned so far is that having a phone number for people to call and make appointments works.
"We weren't going to send out a link where people had to sign up," Sandoval said. "We were going to call them and when they called they got somebody who could answer."
Sandoval also said it's important to hold such events in familiar places for the targeted community.
"There's this sense of trust and it spreads through the community, and they're like, 'it was so easy to drive up and everyone was so friendly,'" she said.
That trust will go a long way at future events the members of the group plan to organize, but they acknowledge it will be tough to do so without more support.
"We need resources, and we need our state and local governments to also step up so we can do more for these communities in a way that they really need it," said Gonzales-Gutierrez.
Much like similar vaccination events, this clinic was appointment only. All appointments for Sunday are already scheduled.
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