DENVER — A Denver nonprofit organization serving Latinos in the community for 49 years is making strides to increase vaccination rates among the community.
In less than five months, the nonprofit has vaccinated more than 8,000 Latinos through pop-up clinics across the state.
Government and local organizations across the United States have struggled to increase vaccination rates among Latinos — there is hesitation in the community — but progress is being made in Colorado.
Rudolph Gonzales, the executive director with Servicios de La Raza, a nonprofit, says they’ve made tremendous strides to get Latinos vaccinated by going directly into their communities and setting up vaccination clinics in their neighborhoods across the state.
Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez works with the nonprofit. He says Latin community members not only fear the side effects, but they don’t trust the government, which causes pause. He says it’s why the organization goes the extra mile to get Latinos to show up at vaccination sites.
The pop-up clinics cater to Latinos by playing Hispanic music, dancing, speaking their language and making lighthearted jokes.
On Friday, the volunteers set up shop in the Federal Height’s neighborhood located in District 34.
“Probably about 40% of my district is Latino,” State Rep. Kyle Mullica said.
He says only about 30-35% of the district's population is vaccinated, which he says is "unacceptable." It's why they partnered with Servicios de La Raza to help get more shots into arms.
Gonzalez says about 50% of the people who got vaccinated on Friday are Latinos.
In Colorado, Latinos make up 20% of the state’s population, and nearly 10% are vaccinated, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
While more work is needed, Gonzales says the United States Department of Health and Human Services praised their efforts to vaccinate more Latinos and asked about the key to their success.
Gonzales says the secret is persistence, mobilization, consistency and being culturally responsive. He says the organization has also built a strong trust with the community over its 49 years.
“What government needs to start really understanding is trusting their community-based organizations of color and then getting in the passenger’s seat and letting us drive because we are experts,” Gonzales said
The organization recently received two new refrigerators from the state to hold vaccines. One of the refrigerators is military grade.
“Isn’t that a beauty?” Gonzales said as he marveled at the cooler.
He says it can hold about 500 vaccines at the proper temperature.
“We don’t have to wait for vaccines to get to us outside of Denver and on the trips that we are doing across Colorado,” Gonzales said.
The second refrigerator will be used at the nonprofit. He says they plan to launch evening vaccination clinics three nights a week to vaccinate people who lack access to vaccination sites because they can’t get off work.
The organization says they will continue their “Vaccuna Paluza” tour across Colorado to keep getting shots into arms and help protect the Latin community.
A pop-up clinic is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. at 302 Starbird Avenue in Gilcrest. The organization will also hold a vaccination event on Sunday at Federal Heights Elementary school from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.