Officials said it was an effort to make vaccine distribution more equitable.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Hispanic organizations and leaders will help vaccinate 500 Central Florida residents, the majority of them minorities in underserved communities.

The Hispanic organizers partnered with the Florida Division of Emergency Management for the vaccine distribution. “Black and brown communities represent 40% of our state population, but that same group represents only 13% who’ve been vaccinated already,” State Rep. Carlos G. Smith said. In Orange County, Hispanics make up only about 10% of people vaccinated. In Osceola County, it’s up to 21%. Both numbers are lower than the Hispanic population in both those counties.

“We see a lot of gaps in the Hispanic community, we see it voting, we see it in IDS, we see it over and over again so, of course, we’re going to see in COVID,” the Rev. Jose Rodriguez with Iglesia Episcopal Jesus de Nazaret said. The event organizers report much of the vaccine disparity is a result of language and technology barriers. “There hasn’t been any luck,” Yolanda Folkins said. “[My husband and I] try at seven in the morning but no luck.” 

That’s why they made the vaccine appointment registration process in person at designated Orlando grocery stores, and they provided bilingual assistants to help people fill out the information. The grocery stores were located in underserved areas. The in-person process helped Yolanda and her husband, Lee, book appointments

After appointments were fully booked a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, many registered for the wait list just in case, including Josefa Rodriguez. “I can’t use a computer so this was my best chance to book an appointment,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. “It was easy and I prefer to apply in person. ” The organizations and community leaders involved include: Smith, State Rep. Anna Eskamani, State Rep.

Daisy Morales, State Sen. Víctor Torres, Rodriguez, the Hispanic Federation, Alianza Center, and SOS by Urbander. Of the people booked through the grocery stores, Rodriguez reports, 80% were Hispanic. The vaccines distribution at the Azalea Park church for the 500 people who booked their appointments will begin at noon, Saturday, February 20.