Local Church Seeks to Lend a Hand of Support to Local Latino Community as a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic
By Pastor Tirso Rubin
Latinos make up 45.4 percent of Tucson’s population. After being a part of this community for 23 years, and serving as a pastor, I’ve seen firsthand just how much our local community has struggled with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it has been challenging, the fight continues. It’s still affecting many people–especially Latinos.
In Arizona, about 44 percent of the Latino population is vaccinated, making them one of the racial groups with the lowest vaccination rates. The reasons why Latinos are most likely to refuse the vaccine vary, but most of it is caused by the spread of misinformation. Instead of looking for trusted sources, families are relying on social media platforms, like Facebook, to learn about the vaccine.
While turning someone away from getting vaccinated is against state law, Latinos are reading articles that this has occurred before because of their illegal status in a couple of states on social media. This causes a culture of distrust, doubt and misdirection. If Latinos use social media as their primary news source, it can create a domino-effect of misinformation, especially since they communicate mostly through word of mouth.
In addition to misinformation, there are many barriers that continue to stop Latinos from getting vaccinated. These include fear of missing a day of work, dealing with side effects due to lack of healthcare, access to transportation, lack of nearby clinics, mistrust in government and more.
Since beginning a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at my church, Iglesia de Dios Comunidad de Amor, in Tucson, Arizona, I’ve noticed a shift in our local community towards the vaccine and how it’s provided more accessibility for our underserved population. The pandemic disproportionately affected low income communities and we want to break that cycle by providing resources that will protect their health and well being. During the pandemic, and after the vaccine was released, finding resources in Spanish was challenging, and this is something we are solving by providing bilingual resources. Also, monolingual Spanish speaking Latinos at times don’t trust medical professionals because of the language barrier. By having bilinigual healthcare workers at the clinics, there’s been an increase in trust.
As a pastor, my mission is to serve my community and it’s been life-changing to see how this vaccination program is already making a difference for a lot of families. The vaccination clini was established through a partnership between Hispanic Access Foundation and Health Resources and Service Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HRSA), to establish COVID-19 vaccination sites across the country. The support from HRSA, has been instrumental to establishing a consistent, accessible vaccination clinic in our community.
During one of the days I was volunteering, a local school principal approached me to thank the church for the work they were doing. I vividly remember him saying “you are saving so many people through this vaccination program.” And that’s something that stuck with me. The support we have received has allowed us to distribute the vaccine and give back to those that need it most. However, we need to encourage folks to still get vaccinated and boosted to protect future generations.
Tirso Rubin is a local pastor of Iglesia de Dios Comunidad de Amor and lead coordinator of Hispanic Access Foundation’s Unity in Community COVID-19 clinic in Tucson, AZ.