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Salud and UCHealth focus COVID-19 vaccine clinic on communities of color

A pop-up clinic in Aurora saw hundreds vaccinated Thursday and Friday. One 72-year-old recipient spent his birthday in line for the vaccine.

AURORA, Colo. — As Colorado prepares to receive one of its smallest shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine next week, healthcare partners are trying even harder to prioritize underserved communities and people of color with the vaccines they do have.

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“I was giving vaccines at a clinic in Brighton yesterday,” said Dr. Tillman Farley, chief medical officer at Salud Family Health. “I had to tell folks, 'For your next dose four weeks from now, we’ll let you know when it is.' Because right now we don’t know what the vaccine supply is going to be like in four weeks.”

Through a partnership with Salud and UCHealth, a popup clinic in Aurora saw hundreds vaccinated Thursday and Friday –  like Alfonzo Dorsey, a 72-year-old retiree.

"At first, me and my entire family were reluctant about doing the vaccine. There is a history," Dorsey said. "We thought about it and said we'll wait until June and see what the aftermath is from folks who preceded us." 

After losing several family members to COVID-19, Dorsey and his daughter did more research.

"We experienced two deaths two weeks ago," he said. "My mother-in-law and then my brother-in-law both passed and it was from COVID. After doing a little bit – well, a lot of research we decided to get in line."

They called and put their names on the waitlist at Salud, but even Dorsey said he was surprised when he got an appointment this week. 

"They called and told me I was scheduled for a vaccine tomorrow, and I said, 'Really? Are you joking, or are you for real?'" Dorsey said, laughing. The next day, he was in line for his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Because communities of color continue to suffer the most from COVID-19, Salud is prioritizing them while vaccinating. That's why Dr. Farley, his team at Salud, and UCHealth partners, brought the vaccine to Restoration Christian Fellowship in Aurora this week. They said they are hoping it's the first of many vaccine clinics to come. 

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"We’re really trying to direct our efforts to the populations most adversely at risk," Dr. Farley said. "Latino populations, Black populations, immigrant populations, undocumented populations – those folks are much more difficult to reach, and also have a long history with not being able to trust the medical community, which I totally understand.”

According to the doctor, spots filled up quickly. By Friday evening, 500 vaccines were administered to patients 70 years and older.

"In the situation with the pandemic, you don't have a lot of control," Dorsey said. "There are certain things you can do like follow the guidelines – social distancing, masks, and washing your hands. But you also have the opportunity to use your intelligence to do some research and find out more. And that's what we did."

Residents don't have to be an existing patient of Salud or UCHealth to sign up for a free COVID vaccine. As of Jan. 15, the vaccine is still only available to people 70 years of age or older and health care workers.

"If you have some choices, make the best of them," Dorsey said. "The choice right now is to get vaccinated."

Salud is offering all of its COVID vaccine signup information online in English, Spanish and Somali.

Visit Salud Family Health Center's website to learn more, or click here to register for your vaccine appointment through Salud. 

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