DENVER — In Denver's Globeville neighborhood, a small clinic has a big responsibility. Dr. Pamela Valenza, chief health officer at Tepeyac Community Health (TCH) said combatting vaccine hesitancy is a monumental task that is only possible through community partnerships.
"It's been a monumental task from the beginning," Valenza said. "We have to work together as community organizations to make some headway here."
To get a better understanding of their community's thoughts about the COVID-19 vaccine, TCH surveyed 100 people. Valenza said 90% of respondents were Hispanic or Latino.
"It was really great response in that close to 97% of the respondents had either already been vaccinated for COVID or they are planning to get vaccinated for COVID. There was only close to 3% who were saying, 'Well I want a little more time to think about it,' which is a very low percentage, especially in the Latino community," said Valenza.
She said vaccine confidence dropped significantly when it came to the children of the people surveyed – only 62% of parents at that time said they would vaccinate their children and the two major concerns were safety in regards to long-term effects and side effects.
As the school year approaches, Valenza said it's important to help protect students who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
"Kids who are going to school are unvaccinated and there’s still going to be the risk of contracting COVID, they’re still at risk of transmitting COVID," said Valenza.
"In order to prevent another surge or another outbreak once we have a lot of school children going back to school, I think we need to look very carefully about who’s vaccinated in those settings."
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, kids 10-19 years old make up 13% of the eligible vaccinated population. Currently, 8.95% of that group has received a COVID-19 vaccine. Roughly 11% of children in Colorado are not yet eligible.
Part of protecting ineligible children is making sure those who can receive a COVID-19 vaccine do. In their community survey, Valenza said they found some parents were concerned about vaccinating their children because of heart issues related to the vaccine.
"I absolutely understand their concerns as a parent...one of the ones that is at the top of a lot of parents’ minds is myocarditis or pericarditis and we know that the risk of myocarditis is much higher with a COVID infection than it is with a COVID vaccine."
Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trials for kids under 12-years-old began in March 2021.
Pfizer hopes to submit their vaccine for emergency use authorization in kids 5 to 11 sometime between September and October and soon after for those six months to five years old.
Valenza, like many other health leaders, has a growing concern about the more contagious Delta variant. She said vaccinations are key to keeping the virus from mutating into even more contagious strains that would make current COVID-19 vaccines ineffective.
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