It has been one full year since COVID-19 first came to North Carolina and everything started changing to the "new reality" (I refuse to call it "normal"). In that time everyone has learned to adapt to a variety of safety protocols in an effort to keep themselves and their loved ones as safe as possible from the virus.
And now the long awaited vaccines have arrived. North Carolina started vaccinating Group 3 this week (of 5). That means that anyone age 65 and up, any frontline healthcare workers, and now, anyone who is an essential worker in fiends such as food service, farm working, cleaning/maintenance, and a variety of other professions (including clergy) are eligible to get their shot.
I got mine this week and I have to admit that it was a relief. I know that I am not completely immune (I still have one more dose to go, and the vaccine is not 100% effective even with both doses). However, I feel a certain level of safety and security which I now realize I have not felt in a full year.
And yet, I still have a great deal of concern for the families that we work with at Open Arms. I am concerned for a variety of reasons. First of all, Even though Hispanics/Latinx account for around 10% of the population in North Carolina, so far less than 3% of the people that have been vaccinated have been Hispanic/Latinx. Secondly, I know that even though part of the reason for that lower percentage is because overall the Hispanic/Latinx population is younger than the general population, I also know that there are still some who are afraid to get their shot because they distrust the government. They are afraid to go anywhere near a place where someone might ask them for identification. Many of our Hispanic/Latinx neighbors are not fully or completely undocumented, so they worry that if they try to get a shot, someone will try to deport them instead. Finally, it is also difficult for some of your Spanish-speaking neighbors to get the appointments needed for a vaccine because not all of the resources, including numbers to call to make the appointments, are available to non-English speakers. Fortunately, Forsythe County is better about that than some other places. But North Carolina as a whole is still working on making their Spanish resources as robust as their English ones.
How can people like me, who is not Hispanic, help? First, I got my shot as soon as I was eligible. We will never achieve herd immunity if people don't do that. Second, encourage others to do that too (no matter what their race or ethnicity is - but if they tell you that they are not comfortable with the shot, don't argue, listen). Finally, share accurate information about vaccine clinics and safety (as well as the fact that ICE/CBP will not make any arrests - in fact, the Department of Homeland Security put out a statement in February stating that they support vaccinating everyone)
. Sharing accurate information is important.