Equality Health Foundation Finds A Need and Fills It
The rollout of the long awaited COVID-19 vaccine had a bumpy beginning. Limited supplies made efforts to receive a dose hit-and-miss for many, but combined with significant access barriers, the vaccine became virtually impossible for underserved communities to receive it.
“As of right now,” said Tomás León, Interim CEO of the Equality Health Foundation, “the places where people can receive the vaccine are far away from the Hispanic community. There have been barriers that prevent individuals from getting the vaccination, such as transportation to the vaccination site and access to technology, since you need internet access to schedule an appointment. So, we will bring the vaccine to the people. Our mission is to remove all barriers faced by the Hispanic community.”
Information recently released by the Arizona Department of Health Services explained how the barriers affected the Hispanic community. The report showed that 30% of Hispanics had coronavirus infections and a mortality rate of 29%. In other words, out of 10 COVID-19 related deaths, three of them are Hispanic or Latino. Yet, only 8.4% of the people who have received the vaccine were Hispanic or Latino.
For every 100 vaccines received, only eight went to individuals with Hispanic origins. The Equality Health Foundation saw the need, and it now intends to fill it.
In partnership with various state agencies and nonprofit organizations in the Valley, Equality Health Foundation plans to open COVID-19 vaccination centers in frequented and easily accessible locations for communities dramatically affected by the virus. Possible locations include predominately Hispanic neighborhoods on the south and west sides of Phoenix. These areas have had a high number of cases and deaths related to the disease.
“As a community,” León said, “we need to focus on three things. First, make sure people get tested. The levels of infection have stayed the same since June. Confronted with new and more contagious variants of the virus, it’s important to know if we are infected. Secondly, we must continue with the preventative measures, such as washing our hands constantly, disinfecting surfaces, using facemasks and maintaining social distancing. Last but not least, we need to distribute vaccines to the community in order to keep everyone safe. Just by accomplishing these three things, we will be able to establish immunity within our community.”
León also stated the importance of staying home if we receive positive test results or if we experience symptoms of COVID-19. Self-quarantine is a responsible way of doing our part to keep our community safe and achieve community immunity.
To fulfill their mission, Equality Health Foundation plans to launch educational campaigns, in both English and Spanish, directed to the Hispanic community to increase awareness of the vaccine’s availability. A dedicated call center with bilingual representatives will help with the scheduling of the vaccine.
“We will create a network of state- and city-certified healthcare providers to administer the vaccine and be available at the vaccination sites,” said León. “There will also be a group of promoters to help people register for the vaccine, schedule an appointment and even assist with transportation to the vaccination site. As we said before, we are focusing on removing those barriers to make the process easier for the community.”
The Equality Health Foundation’s initiative to bring the vaccine to the heart of the Hispanic community in Maricopa County will achieve several goals. It not only enables more success in overcoming the COVID-19 virus and preventing deaths from it, but it plays a part in reactivating the Arizona economy in a safe manner. A healthy community is a productive community, which is why the Equality Health Foundation believes no one should go without a vaccine.
For more information, visit www.equalityhealthfoundation.org
Published in Prensa Arizona, 3/25/2021