Arizona groups work to vaccinate 5,000 Central American migrants

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Arizona groups are working to vaccinate 5,000 Central American migrants whom they say are difficult to reach online, according to a local church leader.

“I have been very worried about our people because many of them have not wanted to be vaccinated,” said the Rev. Antonio Velazquez, who is originally from Guatemala and now serves as an evangelical pastor in Arizona.

Less than half (about 46%) of Arizona’s entire population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, even though more than half of the U.S. population has been inoculated.

Velazquez said many who will benefit belong to the indigenous Mam and Quiche groups. Velazquez, a Mam speaker who was hospitalized with the virus last year, said he will get his first shot on Sunday as an example to members of the indigenous community.

The Rev. Antonio Velazquez, an evangelical pastor originally from Guatemala, poses outside a Phoenix church on Thursday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Anita Snow)

Local organizations are trying to boost those numbers. The effort to inoculate 5,000 Central American asylum seekers will begin at a Spanish-language church in Phoenix on Sunday and at city parks starting next week.

The Old Town Health clinic, a private practice, obtained 5,000 shots from the Maricopa County Health Department.

The One Hundred Angels Foundation, which provides medical services to migrants in Arizona, is aiding the effort, the outlet reported.

“Some of these people may not have an email address or may not want to go to an office, so this is a great way to reach them,” One Hundred Angels founder Cecilia Garcia said.

Arizona COVID-19 cases have dropped significantly since a peak in early January, when more than 12,000 cases were recorded on Jan. 4. The state recorded just four positive cases on Friday, though numbers were in the hundreds earlier this week.

The state recorded one COVID-19 death on Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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