In Denver and Aurora, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra tackles barriers to immunization
Earlier in his visit, Becerra told reporters he was concerned about groups and states with lower vaccination rates, especially given variant strains, like the highly transmissible Delta variant, first found. in India, now dominate cases in the United States. He said if this trend continues, the trajectory of the pandemic could darken in the fall or winter, especially if even more transmissible variants take hold.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone should be vaccinated, not just because it’s the right thing to do,” Becerra said. “Because we don’t want to go back to the bad old days of having to shut everything down. “
Despite the presence of variants here, the number of Coloradans receiving COVID-19 and hospitalized has been on a positive trend for weeks. On Friday, 333 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, well below the peak of nearly 2,000 in early December and approaching the low number of last summer.
But perhaps no demographic has been more difficult to immunize than the more than 20 percent of Coloradans who identify as Hispanic, a term officially used in the U.S. census. Just about 10 percent of the state’s doses went to Hispanic residents, according to the state vaccination dashboard. This is despite extensive press from the state and community groups to roll out pop-up clinics, place advertisements in Spanish, and undertake a recent campaign to pair vaccination sites with community events.
Just under half of Colorado’s Latin American population is now vaccinated, far below white residents, according to Deb Suniga, deputy director of outreach for the state’s Latino COVID Equity Task Force. She believed Becerra’s visit and her direct communication via Spanish-speaking media would help the cause of Latinos, who she says receive a constant regime of misinformation and misleading claims about vaccines.
“Without the educational part, people are afraid,” said Suniga, who has done much of her work in northern Colorado and Weld County, which has a large Latin American population. “That’s why it’s so important. That’s why (Becerra) was telling them, ‘We have to get these bullets in the arm.’ ”
Governor Jared Polis took another approach, vaccinations on wheels, via buses like the ones parked in plain view at the event. He said the state started with just a pair of them, but increased that number to nine, “so we can go straight to hard-to-reach areas and rural and underserved urban areas. to help meet people where they are, to get them safely vaccinated. “
Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat who represents the district where the event took place, pointed to a food market in tents behind the vaccine buses. “You see how hard the people in this community work,” he said, noting some shifts that start early in the morning or end in the late evening.
“We have to meet people where they are. Right? Because not everyone can drive 20 miles to the local clinic, ”Crow said. “So we are heading towards them because there are people who work very hard and who deserve some fairness in the distribution of immunization. And that’s what we’re trying to do.
Becerra’s visit is scheduled to raise rates nationwide ahead of the July 4 deadline set by her boss, President Joe Biden, to vaccinate 70% of the U.S. population. The trip also happened a day after President Biden enacted a new federal holiday, juinteenth, to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, and Becerra highlighted the historical disparities of her time on the Denver subway. In the morning, he went around the African American Health Center, a resource center dedicated to providing families with resources to help them overcome the “root causes of health problems.”
Center CEO and executive director Deidre Johnson said when it comes to highlighting health inequalities, Becerra’s visit sent “a huge message about its importance.”
Still, Johnson was concerned that some neighborhood immunization clinics were shutting down too soon due to lack of demand. She urged local leaders, who are able to make them work with federal pandemic funding, not to shut them down. “I don’t want that to happen because it’s going to take time and we want to make sure that we can guarantee access once people are ready to get vaccinated,” Johnson said.
The secretary’s visit also came just a day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the landmark Affordable Care Act, which Becerra helped craft while in Congress and then championed as Attorney General of California. For years, Republicans, arguing that the ACA, also known as Obamacare, is overpriced and unconstitutional, have attempted to scuttle it. Six hundred thousand Coloradans and 21 million Americans have been able to obtain health insurance through the ACA. And on Friday, Democrats heaved a sigh of relief.
“Yesterday was a great victory for the American people,” said Senator Michael Bennet. “It wouldn’t have happened without Secretary Becerra. “
“A loss of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court would have crippled the progress we have made,” Becerra said. “But what I can tell you is that this seven to two is an exclamation point behind the Affordable Care Act being the law of the land.” The judges kept it intact on a 7-2 vote.
Early Friday, Becerra spoke to Polis about the state’s new law establishing a public health insurance option, an idea Democrats talked about promoting nationally to build on the ACA. .