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Hispanic, Latino communities not getting vaccinated due to language barrier

Hispanic and Latino Hoosiers make up about 7 percent of Indiana's population. But they make up only 2 percent of Hoosiers who've been vaccinated.

INDIANAPOLIS — While people are lining up by the thousands to get vaccinated every day, there's growing concern about who is not in that line.

Hispanic and Latino residents make up about seven percent of Indiana's population. But according to the Indiana State Department of Health, they make up only two percent of Hoosiers who've been vaccinated.

"We have been affected disproportionately from the beginning of COVID and continue to be," said Marlene Dodson, president of the Indiana Latino Institute.

"They are worried," she said, referring to people in the Hispanic and Latino communities who may not fully understand the importance of the vaccine and what it does.

Dodson said part of the problem is access to the information because of a language barrier.

Monica Hammerle, a nurse with IU Health, agrees.

"The language barrier is huge," said Hammerle, who said more needs to be done to reach this part of the community.

"This is a must in order for us to be able to control this virus," she said.

Tuesday morning, Dodson streamed her vaccination appointment live on the Indiana Latino Institute's Facebook page, then led a live Q&A session with a doctor in Spanish, hoping to spread the word.

Dodson said she's encouraging state and local governments to do more to reach out to the Hispanic and Latino community to provide information about the vaccine.

"We are a group of people that really are touchy feely," Hammerle said. "We love in that way and we need to get that back."

Another way health officials are trying to bridge the gap is through a computer translating device. 

The devices are now in all IU Health clinics across the state. They’re able to translate more than 250 different languages.

“There's actually a person that will show up on the screen for us to be able to communicate,” said Mary Kay Foster, a nurse with IU Health. 

When someone comes in who doesn’t speak English, they can use the translating device to speak live with a person who speaks the same language, to guide them through the process and answer any questions.