COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — On most weekends, if Maria Gonzalez isn't at her office in Commerce City, she's likely a few miles north at the Mile High Flea Market.
The founder and CEO of Adelante Community Development has partnered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics there on numerous weekends since February of this year.
"We're trying to build this equity here with...our message is, you know, come and get vaccinated. No questions asked," she said.
The clinics are typically walk-up only, with no appointment necessary.
The focus of the clinics is to help increase the amount of Latinos in the Denver metro who get vaccinated.
Gonzalez says with the help of CDPHE, they've given around 12,000 vaccinations over the last 10 months.
In that time, Gonzalez explained that they've worked to build trust and credibility in the community to help sway vaccine hesitancy among community members.
"Getting these clinics at this time is critical. We have been able to build a rapport with the community, building the trust and credibility, they come to us," she said. "They're bringing all of their coworkers and they're bringing all of their employees, and we're looking to to meet them where they're at."
The most recent data from Tri-County Health Department shows that in Adams County, just 43.5% of Hispanic people 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 74% of white, non-Hispanic people 12 and older.
On Saturday, the group had planned to host a clinic that would have up to 400 doses of the vaccine, including 150 for children available.
Gonzalez said she was informed by CDPHE that due to staffing issues, the clinic would have to be canceled. Specifically, Gonzalez said that the staffing issue had to do with CDPHE not having enough people to give the shot.
Adelante Community Development posted about the cancellation on its Facebook page.
In a release, Gonzalez said in a statement, “We value and respect the great partnership with CDPHE as we vaccinate our Latino community but are devastated that we have to turn away so many people today that made a significant effort to came to get vaccinated. We look forward to continue this strong relationship and together ensure that all Latinos get vaccinated, and no cancellations happen ever again.”
Several requests for comment from CDPHE on the matter were not immediately returned as of Saturday night.
Typically, she says CDPHE had been providing their professionals to help distribute the vaccine.
Gonzalez says the group was able to find at least five people to do that. But because they weren't vetted through the state health department, the clinic could not move forward.
Another clinic is set for Sunday and next weekend and submissions have been put forth to host future clinics, she said.
But Gonzalez said in an interview with 9NEWS that turning people away Saturday was tough, and worries that the trust those people once had to get the vaccine could be damaged.
"At the end of the day, my impact is the community that came. We had so many people that came in, they were wondering why. Why did they not get vaccinated? You know, they'd call off from work, they bring in their children, older adults, and it is heartbreaking to know that we're not able to vaccinate those individuals that want to get vaccinated, that need to get vaccinated and they count on us to be there," she said.
She says that she's been appreciative of the help CDPHE has been able to provide so far for the Latino community, and at the end of the day, calls the issue a miscommunication. But she's left with an uneasy feeling about future clinics.
"There are several people that still need to get vaccinated even for first dose, and that is the place where they go freely to get vaccinated," she said.
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