DENVER -- As the rate of Coloradans vaccinated with at least one shot surpasses 72%, there is still at least one group lagging behind.
Despite making up about 20% of the state's vaccine-eligible population, only 11% of all vaccinated Coloradans are Latinos, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That means about 40%, or less than half, of eligible Latinos have received at least one shot, the agency said.
"This low percentage could really hurt the comeback of our economy because then people are not really healthy to go back into their work environment," Maria Gonzalez, founder and CEO of Adelante Community Development, said Friday.
Her group is holding vaccination drives targeting Latinos on Sundays at the Mile High Flea Market. She says access is still a problem.
"[For example], not being able to find a location that meets their time needs because they work one or two jobs, or because they're a small business and they just don't have the ability to get out and get a vaccine," Gonzalez said.
Questions about vaccine side effects and why the state is paying people to get the vaccine is also causing some hesitancy.
"Some people wonder, 'Why are they paying us? What's in it for us? What's in it for them?'" Gonzalez said.
As she and others try to get her community's numbers up, more and more businesses are requiring proof of vaccination.
But instead of that being a barrier, Colorado Vaccine Equity Taskforce founder Stephanie Wasserman says it may actually be another tool at combating vaccine hesitancy.
"It's another doorway into getting to herd immunity and getting rid of this pandemic and getting us all back to what we were before the pandemic," she said.
Frustration over not being able to enter a certain business or attend an event may just be what convinces someone to finally get the shot.
"That would give them another kind of check to say, 'OK, I've been hesitant, I've been concerned about the side effects ... but I really want to go back to life before the pandemic,'" Wasserman said.
None of this changes the fact that access remains an issue.
"Until we're able to validate those needs, we're going to continue to have low percentages, and we're going to continue to have more of our Latino families lose family members, be in hospitals and lose their quality of life," Gonzalez said.
A spokesperson with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the agency is actively reaching out to the Latino community to make the vaccine more accessible.
From the data, we know we need to do more to get communities of color vaccinated, and we have a multifaceted approach to doing that. At this point in our statewide vaccination efforts, we know we must keep trying to reach people where they are, offering as much convenience, access, and information as possible to remove any remaining barriers to vaccination.
A significant part of our statewide media campaign has blanketed Spanish radio, television, and print. We have put our messages at bus stops, on billboards, and on buses in targeted neighborhoods, and we have used creative marketing in grocery stores and restaurants like Mi Pueblo, taquerias, mercados.
We have heavily focused our pop-up clinics and buses in Latino neighborhoods. We’ve also included late night hours at our equity stops, because we know that many people have family obligations during the day, work the night shift, or may have more than one job. Every vaccine distribution bus has at least one Spanish-speaking employee.
Adelante Community Development is hosting another vaccination drive on Sunday, Aug. 15, at the Mile High Flea Market from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. At least 245 doses were administered at the event on Aug. 8.