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Hispanic and Latino people make up 15% of Philadelphia's population, according to a Census factsheet. According to city data on the coronavirus vaccine, between 5 and 6% of the Philadelphians who received a shot are Hispanic.
"We talk about racial equity, the city consistently says we are committed to racial equity, but we still haven't learned how to do racial equity," said Rev. Luis Cortés, founder of Esperanza, a network of Hispanic faith leaders.
Rev. Cortés spoke up at a city news conference on the vaccine Friday, calling for a federally run vaccination site in the city's Spanish-speaking neighborhoods that could cater to the communities there.
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The call for more involvement in those neighborhoods came after Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley welcomed the news that President Biden wants all adults to be eligible for shots by May 1.
Cortés said FEMA officials told him they could perhaps get a site running in Spanish-speaking communities in a month.
"If the intent is to have everyone by May 1, we shouldn't be talking about opening a site in a month," he said. "We have to find a way to redistribute the new vaccine that comes up, and maybe the old vaccine, take it away from neighborhoods and groups that are doing better."
U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans and Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez have advocated for a site to reach Hispanic people, Cortés said. Groups have also gone door-to-door in ZIP codes 19140, 19122 and 19124 to get the word out about the vaccines. Even local Latino DJs have helped, Cortés said.
But not everyone wants to - or is able to - go to the site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which is doing over 6,000 shots per day and has greatly increased the number of doses administered per week in the city.
"The main strategy has to be being where the people are. Hispanic people live on and off of 5th Street, from South 5th Street, all the way up to 5th Street and Olney. So we want a site on 5th Street and we haven't been able to get it," Cortés said.
Farley said the city is open to allocating doses to providers who will reach any under-vaccinated group including Hispanics.
“Any organization that can reach the Hispanic population, we’re enthusiastic about giving them vaccine," Farley said. We’re looking out for more providers that can reach them.”