RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginia inches closer toward herd immunity, vaccine coordinators say it's critical to reach every group of people.
Different communities have felt varying impacts from COVID-19, and they're also responding to the vaccine differently.
At the Sacred Heart Center, the mission is simple: Help people thrive and flourish.
"And we believe that good health is a necessary tool for thriving and to flourish," said Sacred Heart Program Director, Carolina Lugo.
That's why team members with the Richmond organization work hard to promote the coronavirus vaccine, especially to a vulnerable population.
"The Latinx community has been devastated by COVID-19," Lugo said. "I mean, the infection rates, the death rates, the long-term health effects."
She said families who need protection most, are often the most fearful about the vaccine -- which she believes stems from historic public health issues.
"[That includes] not being treated well in mainstream medical communities in addition to the fact that the barriers to even accessing healthcare have been insurmountable at times," she said.
Lugo said the avenue to a COVID-19 shot for Latinx individuals has some roadblocks, but the bridge isn't burnt.
Sacred Heart approaches vaccine outreach in a variety of ways including education, conversation and communication.
"We have been really working with them to try to remove as many barriers as possible that they might have," Lugo explained. "Everything from photo ID requirements, knowing that Latinx people often have two last names and helping with the registration process."
Organizers have partnered with the health district to offer on-site vaccinations through the Bon Secours caravan, and Sacred Heart also has a program on Spanish radio stations to discuss the vaccine.
To engage the community, Lugo said it takes more than speaking Spanish, but understanding the culture. That's why the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts partner with community leaders and organizations like Sacred Heart.
"We definitely want to try to find folks who know the neighborhood, know the alleyways, know the corner stores and la tiendas in the community," said Jackie Lawrence, the Equity Director for the Richmond-Henrico Health Districts.
As for what health officials look for in a partner, she said, "Is there someone that knows that community, that's exciting and able to talk about COVID and share information about the vaccine?"
Lawrence stated those efforts play a key role in narrowing vaccine disparities.
Meanwhile, Lugo believes there's still more work to be done. "The community trusts us so much, and we want to use that trust for good."
If anyone in the Latinx community has questions or concerns about the vaccine, Sacred Heart encourages you to reach out.
You can find a list of resources and contact information here.