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A Philadelphia resident gets vaccinated at the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium vaccine clinic on Feb. 20.

Credit: Chase Sutton

A group of Latinx health care providers is applying for city funding to hold vaccination drives to decrease ethnic disparities in vaccine distribution in Philadelphia.

Unidos Contra COVID — which translates to United Against COVID — was inspired by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, and aims to vaccinate both the Black and Latinx communities. Unidos Contra COVID submitted a proposal in early March and they expect a response soon, WHYY reported.

The Latinx community comprises 15% of Philadelphia, but as of March 22, about  12% of those who have been vaccinated are Latinx, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. Prior weeks saw Latinx recipients making up only six-to-nine percent of vaccinations. 

Latinx Philadelphians are also more likely to be affected by the virus. Hispanic residents over 75 years old have the highest hospitalization and death rates per capita in Philadelphia.

“This effort is critical to stem and perhaps turn the tide of the massacre that is occurring to our neighbors, family, and loved ones,” Cooper University Health Care nurse Melissa Pluguez-Moldavskiy told Al Día News.

Unidos Contra COVID proposed to operate a mass vaccination clinic every other week on Friday through Sunday for six hours a day, with a goal of distributing between 20,000 and 25,000 vaccines, WHYY reported. The two proposed sites for the center are New Journey Christian Center in Northwest Philadelphia and Concilio, a social services organization in North Philadelphia.

The proposal requests $767,700 from the city, including a $70,000 salary for the medical director, hourly wages for the staff, and $30,000 for temperature-controlled storage equipment and transport, should the group be allocated the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, WHYY reported.

Some members of the Latinx community fear that immigration status may affect their experience, despite an assertion from the Biden administration that FEMA-run sites do not enforce immigration law when administering vaccinations, WHYY reported. Other concerns include language barriers and transportation accessibility.

Each staff member at the center will be bilingual, including the security, which will be provided by the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association.

Existing organizations serving the Latinx population include Esperanza Health Center and Congreso, though they have struggled to administer vaccines without the appropriate infrastructure or internal capacity, WHYY reported. Esperanza Health Clinic had only administered 1,398 of the 5,000 vaccines it ordered by March 7, while Congreso was unable to administer any of the 200 doses it had ordered.

The health care providers behind both Unidos Contra COVID and existing Latinx health collectives hope that the new organization can better reach patients.

“We’re hoping to do more, but it is cumbersome,” Debra Ortiz-Vasquez, Esperanza Health Clinic’s Director of Community Health and Wellness, told WHYY.