In Denver and Aurora, Minister of Health Xavier Becerra addresses the obstacles to vaccination


At the beginning of his visit, Becerra told reporters he was concerned about groups and states with lower vaccination rates, especially considering variant strains like the highly communicable Delta variant, first found in India and now dominating cases in the US. He said if that trend continues, the pandemic’s trajectory could darken in the fall or winter, especially if more transmissible variants hit the ground.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone should be vaccinated, and not just because it’s the right thing to do,” Becerra said. “Because we don’t want to fall back into the bad old days when everything had to close.”

Despite the existence of variants here, the number of Coloradans who get COVID-19 and are hospitalized has been trending in a positive direction for weeks. 333 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases on Friday, well above the nearly 2000 high in early December and close to last summer’s low.

But perhaps no population group has been harder to vaccinate than the 20 percent or more of Colorado residents who identify themselves as Hispanic, the term officially used in the US Census. According to the state’s vaccination dashboard, only about 10 percent of the state’s doses went to Hispanic residents. And that despite a judicial press from the state and community groups to set up pop-up clinics, run Spanish-language ads, and recently made a push to link vaccination sites to community events.

Slightly less than half of Colorado’s Latino population is now vaccinated, far fewer than white residents, according to Deb Suniga, the state’s assistant outreach director for the state’s Latino COVID Equity Task Force. She thought Becerra’s visit and his direct communication through Spanish-speaking media would help the cause of Latinos, whom she said are on a constant diet of disinformation and misleading claims about the vaccines.

“Without the education piece, people will be scared,” said Suniga, who did much of her job in northern Colorado and Weld County, where many Latinos live. “That’s why it’s so important. So (Becerra) said to them, ‘We have to get these shots in the arm.’ ”

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite
Colorado’s second vaccination station on a bus is parked in Aurora. 06/18/2021.

Governor Jared Polis called another approach, vaccinations on wheels, via buses like the ones prominently parked at the event. He said the state started with just two of them but expanded that number to nine “so we can go straight to hard-to-reach areas and rural areas and underserved urban areas to meet people where they are to be to bring them safely ”. vaccinated. “

Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat representing the district where the event was taking place, pointed to a grocery market under tents behind the vaccine buses. “You can see how hard the people in this church are working,” he said, noting some shifts that start early in the morning or end late at night.

“We have to pick people up from where they are. Law? Because not everyone can drive 20 miles to the local clinic, ”said Crow. “So we go to them because there are people who work really hard and deserve some fairness when it comes to vaccination distribution. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. “

Becerra’s visit is scheduled to raise rates nationwide ahead of a July 4th deadline set by his boss, President Joe Biden, to vaccinate 70 percent of the US population. The trip also came a day after President Biden signed a new federal holiday, the Juneteenth, to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States, and Becerra highlighted the historical differences during his time on Metro Denver. In the morning, he was given a guided tour of the Center for African American Health, a resource center dedicated to providing resources to help families overcome “the root causes of health problems.”

Center CEO and Executive Director Deidre Johnson said that when it comes to exposing health inequalities, Becerra’s visit “sent a great message of the importance of it”.

Still, Johnson worried that some neighborhood vaccine clinics would close prematurely due to a lack of demand. She urged local leaders who can run it thanks to federal pandemic funding not to shut it down. “I don’t want that to happen because it takes time and we want to make sure we can guarantee access once people are ready to get vaccinated,” said Johnson.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite
US MP Ed Perlmutter shakes hands with Stacy Suniga of the Latino Coalition of Weld County ahead of a press conference on COVID-19 in Aurora. 06/18/2021.

The secretary’s visit also came just a day after the US Supreme Court upheld the landmark Affordable Care Act, which Becerra helped draft while serving in Congress and then defended it as California’s attorney general. For years, Republicans have tried to sink the ACA, also known as Obamacare, as too expensive and unconstitutional. Six hundred thousand Coloradans and 21 million Americans have been able to get health insurance through the ACA. And on Friday the Democrats breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yesterday was a great victory for the American people,” said Senator Michael Bennet. “It would not have happened without Minister Becerra.”

“Loss of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court would have paralyzed our progress,” Becerra said. “But what I can tell you is that those seven to two are an exclamation point that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the country.” The judges kept it intact by 7-2 votes.

Early Friday, Becerra spoke to Polis about the state’s new law introducing a public health insurance option, an idea Democrats promoted nationwide to build on the ACA.


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