1st of Md. town hall series addressed vaccine concerns of Latino community

A virtual town hall series designed to generate confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines kicked off Tuesday in Spanish with members of the Maryland Latino community.

It is part of the Maryland State Health Department’s GoVax program, which encourages all Marylanders to protect themselves, their families and communities by getting vaccinated when they become eligible.

Among the speakers were Gustavo Torres of CASA of Maryland and Maryland State Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk.

Torres talked about the importance of getting vaccinated and the safety of the vaccines themselves.

One of the questions that came up concerning forms of identification once a person gets an appointment. Speakers emphasized that once a person obtains an appointment, they may be asked for identification and outlined the different types that are acceptable.

Tania Perez-Fuentes, a teacher and a member of the group Vaccine Hunters, which has been working to match people with appointments, pointed out that there have been incidents where patients with appointments were challenged to provide multiple forms of identification.

Peña-Melnyk, speaking in Spanish, said she had been contacted by the Vaccine Hunters in some of those cases and has intervened. She addressed the audience in Spanish, reminding residents who get appointments that they cannot be turned away over their immigration status or based on insurance coverage.

“¿Si no tiene seguro, no tiene pagar por ella, OK? Es su derecho,” she said. “If you don’t have insurance, you don’t have to pay for it [the vaccine], OK? It’s your right.”

Perez-Fuentes, who also took part in the town hall, was asked if vaccine hesitancy is an issue within the Latino community, especially during her work with the Vaccine Hunters.

“There have been two people off the top of my head that I can say have straight up said that, ‘I’m worried about the vaccine. I’m going to wait,'” Perez-Fuentes said.

Instead, the obstacles Spanish speakers are running into are language barriers and navigating the varied websites to get appointments, she said. Perez-Fuentes pointed out how private providers and grocery chain pharmacies all have different websites, and for people who struggle with the language or with technology, that’s a continuing problem.

More information on vaccination appointments and preregistration can be found on the GoVax website.

For more information on upcoming town halls, visit the Maryland Department of Health website.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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