By Ruth E. Hernandez Beltran
New York, Feb 5 (efe-epa).- With Major League Baseball’s opening day still nearly two months away, Yankee Stadium opened its gates Friday to residents of the Bronx, New York City’s poorest borough, seeking to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
The initiative follows the release of data showing that relatively few of the Big Apple’s Latinos and African Americans are being inoculated, even though those groups have been hit hard by coronavirus.
Hispanics of all hues make up nearly half the population of the Bronx, which is also the borough with the highest percentage of positive Covid-19 tests.
From early Friday, a long line of Bronx residents over the age of 65 – many in wheelchairs – formed in front of the stadium on Babe Ruth Plaza.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the mass vaccination at Yankee Stadium after the city health department revealed that of the people have who gotten the shot to date, only 15 percent were Latino and 11 percent were black.
The city’s population is 29 percent Latino and 24 percent African American.
To administer the program, authorities turned to SOMOS Community Care, a city-wide medical network that mainly serves Medicaid recipients and other low-income people.
“This is truly a historic day, opening day at Yankee Stadium, but a different kind of opening day,” De Blasio said. “Opening day for vaccinations at Yankee Stadium, opening day for the people of the Bronx and only for the people of the Bronx.”
“This is an important moment. This is about equity. This about fairness. The Bronx is one of the places that bore the brunt of this crisis of the coronavirus,” the mayor said.
SOMOS offered 15,000 vaccination appointments and all but 2,000 of them were snapped up in three days.
One of those who got the shot on Friday was Andy Collado.
“I am a diabetic,” the 68-year-old told Efe. “And besides, I got vaccinated so as not to infect others. I am in charge of a building and I deal with people.”
Asked about polls showing that some Latinos are afraid to get the vaccine, Collado was philosophical.
“This is a 50/50. If I’m going to die with the vaccine, I can die with the virus. Many people fear the vaccine. Besides, you have to believe in something and I have God to take care of me,” he said.
Collado said that unlike his previous experiences with trying to get the vaccine, he was able to book an appointment at Yankee Stadium on his first attempt.
Liseth Caraballo, who brought her 75-year-old mother, Carmen Martinez, to be vaccinated, said she had “100 percent” confidence in the vaccine.
Martinez, meanwhile, said that while she had been reluctant to get the shot, her daughter convinced her to do it.
“We are very happy that Gov. Cuomo as well as Mayor De Blasio and the Yankees chose us, community doctors, to give the vaccine to our neighborhood people,” SOMOS Chairman Dr. Ramon Tallaj told Efe.
“We are doctors first. Prevention is our area. Neither hospitals nor urgent care clinics or pharmacies do preventive medicine,” he said.