Esmeralda Baravar, 18, winces as she gets her COVID-19 vaccine during a pop-up clinic at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in South Nashville. (Photo: John Partipilo)
Low vaccination rates in Shelby County’s Latino community drew a plea from a representative of the Mexican Consulate at Thursday’s media briefing by the Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force.
“The [COVID] vaccines are safe, ethical, convenient, save lives and are safe, said Rodolfo Qulantan Arenas of the Little Rock, Arkansas consulate. “You don’t have to pay a single penny to vaccinate yourself. Immigrant authorities of this country have expressed that we are facing a hard challenge, a pandemic, and if you decide to vaccinate yourself, no one will ask about your immigration status.”
“No one will ask if you have papers. No one cares if you are undocumented… to have access to the vaccine,” Arenas said.
Task force official Doug McGowen said at the briefing that there has been an increase in vaccinations. In July, 42% of the Shelby County population had received one dose of the vaccine, but by August, that number increased to almost 50%. Nearly 40% of residents have received both.
While vaccinations in most populations have increased, only 6% of Shelby County’s Latino population have received the vaccine.
Arenas urged the members of the Latino community to vaccinate anyone 12 and older but to remember that the vaccine alone is not enough to remain safe in the pandemic. He asked people to wear masks, avoid shopping under crowded circumstances and to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 guidelines.
You don't have to pay a single penny to vaccinate yourself Immigration authorities of this country have expressed that we are facing a hard challege, a pandemic, and if you decide to vaccinate yourself, no one will ask about your immigration status.
– Rodolfo Qulantan Arenas, Mexican Consulate
“Please, Hispanic and Latino communities, remember to protect the most vulnerable, which are children and older people. Don’t forget that vaccines save lives, and if you have concerns, or comments, contact the Shelby County Health Department or the Mexican consulate in Little Rock,” he said.
“Do it for yourself, for your loved ones, for the community that you live and work in,” said Arenas.
Shelby County pediatric cases remain high
COVID-19 cases continue to rise despite a county-wide mask mandate that went into effect on Aug. 23. On Thursday there were 531 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, with children accounting for 38% of total cases.
Pediatric cases have risen across Tennessee, with children accounting for 17.4% of cumulative cases, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
The New York Times currently lists Tennessee as being first in the nation for most cases per 100,000 residents.
Michelle Taylor, Shelby County’s health director, noted that the large majority of hospitalizations are happening among younger patients, many of whom were unvaccinated parents and children.
“Are the children getting it first and passing it on to their parents or are the parents getting it first and passing it onto the kids? No matter what the situation is, we do know that this continues to be a surge of the unvaccinated,” said Taylor.
Taylor continued to urge vaccinations among those eligible in order to protect children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated.
“We depend on everyone in the community to do their part,” said Taylor.
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