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Latino Organization Hits Vaccine Milestone

Latinx Immigrants of Iowa
Latinx Immigrants of Iowa advocates for Latino and Spanish-speaking communities across central Iowa. They recently hit a milestone by vaccinating more than 900 people through partnerships with Hy-Vee and other local agencies.

Overall demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Iowa is slowing down. Many counties have even declined new vaccine shipments. But a central Iowa nonprofit that advocates for Latino communities is still seeing many people are eager to get the vaccine.

Latinx Immigrants of Iowa recently hit a milestone by vaccinating more than 900 Latinos and Spanish-speakers at clinics with Hy-Vee. But there’s still more work to do, according to director Jose Alvarado.

Latinos have received about 3 percent of the state’s doses. They make up more than 6 percent of the population. There are almost 200,000 Latinos in the state.

Alvarado said the people he has spoken with all want the vaccine, but there are certain things they need before they get it.

“People need the vaccine, and they just need a safe place to take the vaccine. That’s the only thing they need, you know? Even if they have documents or not. They need someone they feel comfortable [with]," Alvarado said.

The clinics have Spanish-speaking volunteers, signs and instructions in Spanish. They administered the Pfizer vaccine. Alvarado said establishing trust has been one of the sources of their success.

“They're so happy. They feel comfortable when they show up to the clinics, all the people. Everything was in their own language, and one thing that they trust [is] us, because we have known them for years, working for them, empowering them," Alvarado explained. His organization has been operating since 2017.

They started vaccination clinics after some members of the community expressed concern about some questions clinics may ask regarding immigration status and social security numbers. So they partnered with individuals from the University of Iowa who helped them approach Hy-Vee. Alvarado said the company agreed to help with clinics quickly, "within ten minutes."

Jose Alvarado
Jose Alvarado, director of nonprofit Latinx Immigrants of Iowa, received his Pfizer vaccine at one of the clinics with Hy-Vee.

Alvarado said the nonprofit is currently asking for donations to continue their vaccination clinics with churches and other groups.

Right now, Latinx Immigrants of Iowa is working on opening an office, where Alvarado said he hopes to run drive-thru vaccination clinics in the near future.

"We want, instead of 900, to be more than 1,000, you know? It's like a big dream. And push people to do it because, one of the big things: it's free," Alvarado said. "And they will be comfortable going to those clinics, and we will be there to help them to translate in case they have any issue."

Alvarado added making sure Latinos and Spanish-speakers have access to resources is something he feels strongly about. He said it's because he's "one of them."

"I have the same troubles as they do," Alvarado admitted. He said he tries to be a positive example, so he received his vaccine at one of the clinics in front of others.

Latinx Immigrants of Iowa has worked with other agencies such as the Polk County Health Department, but has not yet worked with the state. Alvarado described most of the Des Moines community as helpful and welcoming to vaccination clinic partnerships.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines