• June 24th, 2024
  • Monday, 07:14:36 AM

Salud Family Health Centers Assists in Vaccination Efforts

By Alexsandra Ruiz-Ortíz


Crowded malls, music vibrating at concerts, dinners with generations of families, and so many other activities sounded normal, almost habitual a year ago. It’s possible to think that some type of “normal” may be a reality later this year, due to the ongoing vaccination efforts and phases continuing in Colorado and across the nation.

Endeavors to get the vaccine to people who want it and encourage those who are skeptical, has been an ongoing challenge around the state. Salud Family Health Center continues to be a bridge between vaccine efforts and community members in Colorado.

Photo: Salud Family Health Center Salud Family Health Centers set up vaccination sites early last month.

John Santistevan, the CEO and President of Salud Family Health Center, explained the wide range of services offered at Salud. They serve everyone, but more specifically those who are underrepresented—people

of color, migrant farmworkers, and immigrants.

In its’ humble beginning, Salud opened their health center inside an old onion warehouse to serve migrant farmworkers in the 1970’s, and now serves community members at thirteen sites, in addition to a mobile clinic that travels to locations that include the Consulate of México.

Due to Salud’s deep commitment as a mission-oriented health organization, with a purpose “to provide quality, integrated, health care home to the communities we serve,” they were able to serve approximately 85,000 patients and provided 280,000 health visits in 2020; and over a third of their patients are children.

Photo: Salud Family Health Center Salud Family Health Centers mobile clinic travels across Colorado to offer health services to migrant farmworkers.

Santistevan noted that Salud has a solid team consisting of leadership and staff that works closely with patients and is mindful in managing costs for its’ clients and the Health Centers.

In addition, Salud listens to their patients, board members, and staff to discuss how they can improve their service, said the CEO.

Along with providing health care to the community, Salud assists other health agencies to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. “To date, we’ve given over 26,000 vaccines. Our current capacity is 5,600 vaccines a week. We work very closely with the governor’s office, the Vaccine Equity Task Force, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to receive as much vaccine as we can administer,” explained Santistevan.

“Recently, Salud is one of the first 25 Health Centers across the country selected to participate in a health center COVID-19 vaccine program– which is a Health Resources and Services Administration sponsor program that provides vaccines directly to community health centers. They are providing us the 5,600 doses per week, explained Santistevan.

“If we want to reach our goals of vaccinating our vulnerable population, we have got to speak their language.”
John Santistevan, CEO/Salud Family Health Center

As Salud transitions from administering vaccines directly to community members through their own website and scheduling system, they continue to partner with several agencies to vaccinate Coloradans.

With that additional effort, it has created many challenges in administering the COVID-19 Vaccine. “One of the things is, coming up with the resources to give the vaccine, and it is not only administering the vaccine, it is doing the outreach, scheduling, and logistics of pop-up clinics,” said Santistevan.

“If we want to reach our goals of vaccinating our vulnerable population, we have got to speak their language.”
John Santistevan, CEO/Salud Family Health Center

To meet the demand, Salud has to allocate employees from the Health Centers away from providing care to its’ patients and into the pop-up clinics for administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, they are seeing less patients because of the vaccine efforts.

“We made the decision that it is the right thing to do—to vaccinate as many individuals as we can. We look at it as we are saving individuals’ lives,” noted Santistevan.

As Colorado’s governor announces each phase, Salud asks people to register online through their website. Salud will screen those to see who meets the phase requirements at the time and call them to make appointments to receive the vaccine.

Federal mandates indicate that all individuals in the United States—documented or undocumented—are eligible for the vaccine as explained in vaccine phases.

According to a statement, from the Department of Homeland Security, the “DHS and its Federal government partners fully support equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine distribution sites for undocumented immigrants. It is a moral and public health imperative to ensure that all individuals residing in the United States have access to the vaccine. DHS encourages all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once eligible under local distribution guidelines.”

Santistevan explained that Salud serves everyone and “[in regards to] documentation status, we don’t put up that barrier. We don’t ask. We’ll vaccinate whoever is at our door and is eligible to be vaccinated,” according to COVID-19 vaccine phases.

In addition to allowing all individuals to seek health services from Salud including the COVID-19 vaccine, Santistevan emphasized the crucial component of language when it comes to outreach efforts for our Spanish speaking communities who have been shifted aside when it comes to relaying information about the vaccine.

Salud translates all their information regarding services and vaccination efforts into Spanish. “We’ve got to communicate in the language the individuals are the most comfortable with, and we’ve got to provide services as closely to their location as much as possible,” stated Santistevan.

“If we want to reach our goals of vaccinating our vulnerable population, we have got to speak their language,” stressed Santistevan.

Serving in the language and representing the culture of the community is one of the factors why Salud has been successful in Colorado for over five decades.

“It really is our culture of serving this population. We’ve been doing it for 51 years now. Salud started as a migrant center, so we’ve always had that emphasis of serving the Latino population. It is a part of what we are,” said Sanistevan.

For further information about Salud and their COVID-19 vaccine efforts visit their website in English at saludclinic.org or Spanish es.saludclinic.org.


Alexsandra Ruiz-Ortíz is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.


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