First modification: 22/02/2021 – 16:48
Central Falls, Rhode Island (United States) (AFP)
Most countries that have the covid-19 vaccine only administer it to the elderly and essential workers for now, but in the United States, a small city with a large Hispanic population already offers doses for everyone over 18 years of age.
Central Falls, a small Rhode Island city with 20,000 inhabitants where 66% are Latino, many of them undocumented immigrants, is one of the most densely populated places in the United States and also one of the most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. .
The Rhode Island state government recommends that only risk groups such as essential workers and those older than 75 be vaccinated.
But Central Falls is doing things its way, and has cleared all adults for vaccination.
“Every person who lives or works here is a priority,” Mayor María Rivera told AFP during a recent mass vaccination day.
The virus spread like wildfire through the tight-knit community of Central Falls, where many families often share a single home.
Central Falls has the highest rate of virus-positive cases and hospitalizations in the state of Rhode Island.
Since January there have been more than 3,500 cases, with 21 deaths and 190 hospitalizations.
Added to the health cost is the economic impact of the pandemic.
“At the beginning of the covid (…) there were so many residents losing their jobs, and they had no money and could not request compensation” because they do not have papers, Rivera recalled.
When the vaccine became available in December, the city offered injections to those over 75, then over 65, then over 50, and finally lowered the threshold to 18 a few weeks ago.
– “It was the right thing” –
“If we don’t fix the problem where the problem is, we will continue to spread this disease,” Rivera said.
The mayor’s team has toured homes door to door to inform the population in Spanish and other languages such as Cape Verdean Portuguese about the possibility of getting vaccinated. 13% of the city’s population is black and many of them originate from this archipelago located off the northwest coast of Africa.
“This was the first vaccination for the general public, probably the first in the country,” said Eugenio Fernández Jr., founder of Asthenis, a pharmacy that works with poor communities.
When nurse Suzanne Wallace learned of the problems in Central Falls, she knew she needed to volunteer to vaccinate the population.
“I felt that doing it was the right thing to do,” he told AFP.
One of the first residents to be vaccinated at Central Falls High School was Angelica Romero, 30.
“I was very scared to come, I will be honest with you,” said Romero, whose father spent more than three months in the hospital after contracting the coronavirus.
It was her mother who signed her up to be vaccinated. “We are anxious to have as safe an environment as we can for my father,” Romero explained to AFP.
© 2021 AFP