DENVER — As Colorado health officials continue to encourage vulnerable populations to get COVID-19 booster shots, the latest vaccine statistics show just one in five Coloradans who have received the booster shot are a person of color.
“The numbers in terms of how many people of color have received the vaccine have been lower than the majority population… We’re going to see those discrepancies continue to playout if we don’t take an innovative approach,” sadi Dr. Ozzie Grenardo, chief diversity officer for Centura Health.
According to the state, 83% of people who have received a booster shot in Colorado are white.
The Denver Post reports Black residents who account for 4% of Colorado’s population have received 2% of booster shots and Latino residents who make up 20% of the population have received just 6% of boosters.
“We have to go above and beyond to improve those numbers,” Grenardo said.
Grenardo said Latino Coloradans are encountering the same barriers to the booster shot that they did with the initial vaccine.
Grenardo said some of his Latino patients who work frontline jobs are hesitant to get the shot due to possible side effects and lack of paid sick time.
“It’s a terrible conundrum for people who can’t take the time off, can’t have any time to actually have typical side effects that we’ve seen, and then feel comfortable going back to work knowing that their jobs going to be safe,” Grenardo said.
Grenardo said language barriers are also a consistent issue.
“There are many different websites where you can sign up for a vaccine. I just looked at one of them and with a local pharmacy chain and they don’t have anything in Spanish,” Grenardo said. “So when you look at the information that’s being given out around the vaccine, what language is it in? Is it in the language that someone prefers?”
Grenardo said pharmacies and clinics that require a government ID to get a vaccine have also been a deterrent.
“We know that the most successful campaigns that we’ve seen are those clinics who don’t ask for IDs and we see a higher percentage of those people in the Latinx, Hispanic community actually getting their vaccines through those clinics,” Grenardo said.
Grenardo said health officials need to continue to take innovative approaches and implement targeted outreach to increase access to the vaccine and booster shots for communities of color.