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IA Latinos: We're Being Overlooked in Vaccination Outreach

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As states begin to release data related to COVID vaccinations, more reports indicate access issues, as some racial groups are receiving the shots at much lower rates than white residents. (Adobe Stock)
As states begin to release data related to COVID vaccinations, more reports indicate access issues, as some racial groups are receiving the shots at much lower rates than white residents. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
April 7, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa - Coronavirus vaccinations now are open to all Iowa adults age 16 and older, but there's amplified concern from Latinos about overcoming barriers to access, and they're asking state and federal leaders to improve outreach.

Accordng to the Iowa Department of Public Health, fewer than 2% of doses administered have gone to Latinos, while nearly 80% have gone to whites. Joe Enriquez Henry, state political director for the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens, said he feels the overall effort has been geared toward personal access, which doesn't help minority groups.

"This is not rocket science," he said. "They should not be placing the responsibility upon community members to get access, to find out how to access."

He said he feels there should be more culturally appropriate outreach, in places such as grocery stores. Henry said Latino communities face many disadvantages, including lack of information in languages other than English, and technology gaps to sign up for appointments online.

The state health department did not respond to a request for comment before deadline, but it does have a multilingual COVID-19 phone line.

Nola Aigner Davis is public-information director for the Polk County Health Department, where 21% of the state's Latino population resides. She said she hasn't heard direct complaints from advocacy groups about vaccination access, and noted that they are working with these communities to get around barriers -- "language barriers, transportation barriers, any type of barriers that would impede them from getting the vaccine."

But Henry said he feels there's room for improvement from all levels of government, including how to better assist undocumented immigrants in the vaccination effort. Public health officials around the United States have said this group is eligible, but Henry noted a key obstacle.

"What we are seeing at a lot of these places where the vaccination is provided," he said, "a government ID plus a Social Security number has to be provided."

He said he sees some relief, in that meat-processing companies have stepped up vaccination efforts for employees. However, he added, many Latinos are self-employed, which limits access to employer-provided information.

Disclosure: League of United Latin American Citizens - Council 307 contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Human Rights/Racial Justice, Immigrant Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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