COVID-19 vaccination hotline set for Spanish-speaking Hoosiers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — City officials, the Marion County Public Health Department and community partners will host the Spanish COVID-19 vaccine registration day on Saturday.

“We want all Hoosiers including the Latino community to be safe, to be healthy, to be protected,” said Belkis Ramirez, a program specialist for the health department.

According to André Zhang Sonera, a project manager for the city government, around 99,000 Latinos live in Marion County but only around 3,000 have been vaccinated.

“That’s still a low number of individuals that we need to make sure we’re breaking that divide and we’re making sure we’re reaching the community with their trust and confidence in their native language,” Sonera said.

“We are very worried,” Ramirez said.

Bilingual volunteers with phones will be ready to answer any questions from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday.

“Some people they don’t speak English so they don’t know the website, so they don’t know how to navigate the system, so they are confused with the whole process of registration, who qualifies, what do they need. Everything is confusing for them so here we are answering questions,” Ramirez said.

A bilingual doctor will also be available to answer any questions about the vaccine. According to the nonprofit La Plaza, some Latinos won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine because they’re scared of being arrested or deported. Right now, all people regardless of their legal status can get vaccinated once they’re eligible under the local distribution guidelines.

Community leaders add some are struggling to get access to resources, “or don’t have access to a computer or don’t know how to navigate the internet,” said Virna Diaz, executive director of the Latino Health Organization in Indianapolis.

They say it makes a difference to hear a friendly voice on the other line who where they come from.

“A friendly call like ‘Hola, ¿cómo estás?,'” Ramirez said, saying “Hello, how are you?” in Spanish. “It means so much to the people because it creates confidence, like I’m important for them, I’m a person they want to take care of.”

Event organizers say they are looking at having another Spanish Vaccine Registration Hotline event in the future.

People can call 317-221-2100 or 317-327-2100 on Saturday.