Routt County to host vaccine clinic for local immigrant communities

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In an effort to get closer to equitable vaccine access for all Coloradans, state health officials are partnering with local organizations to hold clinics intended to reach immigrant, low-income and other underserved communities.

One of these equity clinics will be held in Steamboat Springs next week with the goal of reaching many locals who do not speak English as their first language. The Routt County Public Health Department is working with local nonprofit Integrated Community to set up the clinic.

“We have been working with them since the beginning of the pandemic, really doing community testing in Spanish, giving information about vaccines, so this was really the next step for us,” said Maria Paula, interpretation and translation program coordinator for Integrated Community.

The equity clinics started in February after Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials were criticized for unequal distribution of the vaccine. Nearly two months later, it is still somewhat difficult to tell how racially equitable vaccinations have been since not all providers are collecting race information when they give a shot.

For example, in the 11-county region of Northwest Colorado that includes Routt County, state databases lack race or ethnicity data for one of every five people vaccinated.

The clinics are designed to break down some of the barriers many in these communities face when getting a vaccine like transportation, technology limitations and language. Since the clinics started, there have been 111 of them held in more than 30 different counties, according to information shared by Polis on Monday.

Between March 29 and April 6, there are more then 75 of these clinics scheduled across the state with more than 30,000 Coloradans expected to be vaccinated. Polis said the state will soon be adding four buses that will travel around the state and hold clinics on the go, especially in medically underserved communities.

Polis said these efforts are about making it easy for people to get the vaccine. Paula said not being able to speak or read English is the biggest barrier they deal with locally.

“We do see a lot of information out there, not necessarily in Spanish though,” Paula said. “We really want to make sure that the information that they are getting is in their language. That is what we are trying to do really — to be that bridge between public health that are the ones bringing the clinic and our clients who don’t really speak the language.”

Paula said Integrated Community has been busy reaching out to clients and scheduling vaccine appointments for the clinic. They will have interpreters in both Spanish as well as French, spoken by many East African immigrants locally, at the clinic next week.

Integrated Community has been partnering with public health throughout the pandemic by translating information and being a general resource for people to ask questions. To combat misinformation about the vaccine, Paula said the nonprofit has held online town halls with Spanish-speaking doctors to debunk false claims and give people more confidence in the vaccine.

“At the end of the day, it is a very personal decision if they want to get vaccinated or not, and all we want to do is give them the information, so they can make a knowledgeable decision,” Paula said.

The clinic will be held April 8 at Steamboat Christian Center, and an appointment is required to get a vaccine. Routt County spokesperson Robin Schepper said the county got these vaccines specifically for this clinic, and it is really targeted at these communities.

Vaccines are available at more providers locally as many primary care clinics have now started receiving vaccines. On Thursday, public health will host a clinic for restaurant workers using the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith has said she wants to get the one-shot vaccine to vaccinate restaurant workers because she worried they may leave town when the ski season ends, making getting a second dose of the vaccine tricky.

Public health has been working directly with restaurants to get many of these employees signed up for their shots, Schepper said.

On Monday, Polis said the vaccine supply had increased lately, which in part pushed him to open eligibility up to the general public starting Friday. Schepper said the county is hoping to get larger quantities of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the coming weeks now that production issues have been resolved.

When public health gets vaccines, a link to make an appointment will be posted on the county’s vaccine information website, Schepper said.

“We are hoping that the supply chain is going to resolve itself, because that has been the issue,” Schepper said. “Wherever you can get the vaccine, don’t wait, vaccinate.”

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