By Andrea Flores

DENVER (CBS4) – State and local health departments are teaming up with community-based organizations to make sure everyone has equal access to the COVID vaccine.

“It is all hands on deck,” said Gina Febbraro, Community Engagement Organizer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We’ve heard about barriers such as cost, transportation, concerns from Latinx communities with recent immigrants about fear of deportation, and data privacy.”

(credit: CBS)

That’s why the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment started Champions for Vaccine Equity, an initiative that provides information and access to the vaccine for people of color.

“There’s a very good reason for there to be a lot of mistrust among communities of color, whether historical or current racism and oppression that shows up in different institutions, and we do need to take a different approach,” Febbraro.

In Denver, the Department of Public Health and Environment is considering pop-up or drive-through vaccination sites, like community-based testing sites around the city, to meet the need of underserved communities.

“When we compared the data between the Pepsi Center and what we saw with our smaller community-based testing sites, we did see a significant shift toward reaching a lot more people of color, in both Latinos, as well as Black communities. We saw a large uptick, so for us that’s a good indication that bringing a more accessible site is definitely the way to go,” said Cali Zimmerman, Emergency Management Coordinator for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.  “We’re also making sure that the sites are not only drive-up, but also have a walk-up option for folks who are using public transportation or walking.”

(credit: CBS)

Zimmerman says DDPHE is working on partnership with community-based health providers and pharmacies to address possible gaps in the vaccine rollout. Once they have an idea of where those gaps might be, Zimmerman says DDPHE can make recommendations on where vaccines are needed most. Organizers know that to slow the spread, they’ll have to bring down the barriers.

“As the state of Colorado, we would like everyone who wants to take a vaccine to have access and be able to get one,” Febbraro. “When we have more supply of vaccines from the federal government, we hope to be able to make that happen.”

Andrea Flores