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Hartford nonprofit works to raise COVID-19 awareness among immigrant community

The Hispanic Health Council, is a nonprofit organization that has been working to raise covid awareness within the Latin American community in Hartford.
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
Connecticut Public
The Hispanic Health Council is a nonprofit group that has been working to raise awareness about COVID-10 within Hartford's Latin American community.

The Hispanic Health Council has been working to raise COVID-19 awareness within Hartford's Latin American community.

The nonprofit's outreach program has spent the last three years educating the community about the coronavirus, said Nicole Figueroa, the Hispanic Health Council's COVID-19 program manager.

“We have two different COVID programs, one through the city of Hartford, one through the Hispanic Health Council,” she said.

The second program is a partnership with Hartford HealthCare and Griffin Health, Figueroa said.

“We went out to conduct some outreach, to conduct some tabling events and a vaccination clinic," Figueroa said. “We are trying to engage the community to get vaccinated.”

More than 1,500 vaccines have been provided through the Hispanic Health Council's outreach effort, Figueroa said.

There has been skepticism from some in the Hispanic community, but that has eased over time, thanks to efforts to engage the public, Figueroa said.

“[We] sit with them and try to go over the vaccination information, and they believe a little bit more,” Figueroa said.

More than 84% of Hispanics between 25 and 34 years old in Connecticut have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, according to state data. Older Hispanics in Connecticut are even more likely to have gotten vaccinated. For Hispanics between 45 and 54, nearly 97% have gotten at least one dose.

A report in 2021 by the Kaiser Family Foundation said that 35% of unvaccinated Hispanics who are undocumented fear immigration retaliation due to vaccination.

But Hispanic adults are about twice as likely as white adults to say they want to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, the study said, "indicating an opportunity for more focused outreach and information efforts."

Dawn Filippa, operations manager at Hartford HealthCare, said the Latin American immigrant population has been educated about COVID vaccines.

“A lot of the undocumented are afraid because they think that if they provide their name, their address to us, that somehow that’s connected to the government support,” she said. “We tried to always have an open, welcoming presence for them. And reassure them multiple times, if needed, that they are completely safe with us. All information is treated as private and confidential.”

Figueroa said the services provided reach a vast Latin American community, specifically immigrants whose primary language is Spanish. Single mothers with babies and school-age children are among people interested in receiving information.

“With Hispanic immigrants, sometimes they are scared, but we sit with them, and we go over all the information, and we tell them that we are here to support you. We don’t have anything to do with the courts,” Figueroa said.

Silvia Cortez, a 31-year-old from Cali, Colombia, got sick with the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. When COVID vaccines became available, she did not doubt getting the shot.

“I’m a person of faith," Cortez said. “I understand that a lot of studies are done on vaccines first before they go on the market and all that stuff.”

The Hispanic Health Council is partnering with Hartford HealthCare and Griffin Health each Wednesday to provide COVID-19 vaccines and other services such as flu, shingles and pneumococcal vaccines as well as physicals.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.