Vaccine availability information is not reaching highest risk population

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By Josefina Cabrera-Moreno

Translation: Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Now that Monterey County has begun inoculating adults 75 and older, we are delighted to see the possibility to enhance protections for our senior citizens.

I entered my Facebook a few days ago and the first thing I saw was that one of my friends shared the page of the Department of Health and gave a link to register for the vaccination that opened on Jan. 26.

I immediately went in to make an appointment for my husband but realized that there was no more room at the hospital in Monterey. I then checked on the link of Natividad Medical Center in Salinas and found an appointment. In fact, Salinas is closer to Soledad than the Monterey Peninsula, so it would be better.

I couldn’t decide whether to make an appointment for my dad as well, since his doctor had told us that the vaccines would soon arrive at his clinic. Finally, I entered the site but there were no longer any on Natividad’s. My other option was Mee Memorial Hospital in King City.

I sent a message to several friends and family members to encourage them to get appointments for their parents. Some were lucky, some were not.

But is it a matter of luck? It should not be that way. The majority of our adult Hispanic and farmworking community are not heavy Internet users. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department  of Commerce indicates that language barriers and immigration patterns are associated with the lowest rates of internet use. According to their numbers, only 65 percent ​​of Latinos older than 65 use the internet.

Also, it is unlikely that the majority of our youth will follow the Department of Health website to stay tuned for their daily announcements regarding COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Later I spoke by phone with a relative to find out if she had made an appointment for his mother, who is of advanced age. He answered no, that “everything was full.” She told me: “This is for people who go online often and for people who maybe have connections, which means that people like me are not going to have a date for our parents soon.” She is right. Maybe some of them didn’t even know the possibility of making an appointment is out there.

The Monterey County Health Department website reports that since “… health workers and people over the age of 75 share the same supply of vaccines … there will be waiting time to make appointments. Unless additional supplies of vaccines are available, it could take four to five months to administer vaccines to all county residents aged 75 and older. ”

For his vaccination, my husband and I decided to go early to the appointment. The day before it had rained heavily and even Highway 101 was closed at times. He didn’t want to risk missing out on getting vaccinated. We arrived very early at Natividad. In order to be sure that we were in the exact place where we would be treated, we were parked for half an hour in front of the site. We didn’t see any Hispanics coming out, only whites and people of Asian features.

Since the appointment was still a long time away, we decided to go eat and do some shopping. We returned half an hour before the appointment and after that time, my husband happily received the Moderna vaccine. They asked that we wait 15-20 minutes before leaving. During that time, we didn’t see any brown faces. I don’t know if it was just a coincidence that we only saw whites and Asians.

On Jan. 29, CNN reported that in New York doctors and members of a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood reported that most of the people who have been treated at a mass vaccination center established in that neighborhood were white or lived outside the city.

As a Latina, it is sometimes difficult to see these differences and not wonder if there is a preference for a certain ethnic group in Monterey County or just poor communication planning for the Hispanic community. It should be noted that it is the Latino population that is bearing the brunt of COVID-19. According to the Department of Health, 71 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Monterey County are Latinos, despite only being 60 percent of the county’s population.

I want to rule out that it is premeditated discrimination, but I insist on the need that Latinos have to be better informed through radio and television and not so much through the internet. Please, plan a strategy to make information about vaccination centers and dates for appointments known. And to make available other methods to register for vaccines, not just online.

Regardless of our individual circumstances, let’s all protect ourselves. Let us defeat this pandemic with our joint effort.

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Josefina Cabrera-Moreno

About Josefina Cabrera-Moreno

Josefina Cabrera-Moreno, licenciada en Periodismo, maestría en Español y diplomada en Migración y Derechos Humanos, vive en Soledad, California.