Philadelphia's Latino doctors aim to boost vaccinations in underserved communities

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Recognizing that the Latino and Hispanic communities are being vaccinated at a slower rate than the rest of the Philadelphia population, a group of doctors wanted to do something about it.

"There's a lot of mistrust and I find that to be very challenging," said Dr. Melissa Pluquez, who is one of seven Latino doctors and health care professionals who formed the group, Unidos Contra Covid, United Against Covid.

They say Latinos and Hispanics in Philadelphia have been particularly hard hit by the virus with higher death rates and hospitalization rates among the older adult population than any other racial or ethnic group.

"They didn't understand how to navigate the system in getting vaccinated. And for that reason, I believe our Covid numbers were going up and our vaccinations weren't going any higher," said Cookie Sanchez, a registered nurse who is a member of the group.

Puerto Rican community activist Oscar Rosario expressed his anger over the disparity in vaccinations saying, "I give them an F."

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The city acknowledges that less than 6% of the first doses of vaccine have gone to the Hispanic and Latino community.

Members of Unidos Contra Covid say they want to help and have applied to the city for funding to provide vaccine access to the city's significantly under-vaccinated community.

"We feel it's our duty as health care professionals who deal specifically with our Latino community on a day-to-day basis to be that extra hand," said Dr. Pluquez.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia wants to help and expects to vaccinate 100 Hispanic senior citizens at the Norris Square Senior Community Center on Friday starting at 10:30 a.m.

"They feel safe there, they feel secure, they're much more likely to come to a place like Norris Square to be vaccinated than to go to a mass vaccination site," said Heather Huot, director of Catholic Housing and Community Services for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

If approved by the city, Unidos Contra Covid will set out to vaccinate 20,000 brown and Black underserved Philadelphia residents within six months.
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