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Language barriers for Publix vaccine appointment site

Spanish-speaking family hopes for help with Publix
Posted at 7:37 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 23:22:36-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Publix portal to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine has received much criticism from Latino advocates who say the site hinders the ability to help non-English speaking older adults to book an appointment. It’s because there is no other language on the site to navigate them through the process.

WPTV on Tuesday spoke to an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. Olga, who didn't give her last name, expressed her frustration of getting an appointment for her father.

"Es triste. Él tiene 70 años y él no ha podido vacunarse."

Olga said it is sad and her father, Ramon who is 70, hasn't been able to get a vaccine through Publix's site when it first rolled out. All because it's in English, she said.

"Supuestamente le iban a dar la vacuna a la gente mayor. Pero el dice entonces yo que puedo hacer. Yo quiero vacunarme."

Olga said supposedly vaccines were to be given to older adults, but her father told her what he can do about the situation and just wants to get vaccinated.

It is a frustration the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth has heard over and over again.

"There has been a language barrier in terms of getting the vaccine, accessing the vaccine," said Mariana Blanco, assistant executive director.

Blanco said change needs to happen and hopes pharmacies and state websites will provide critical information in other major languages that are spoken in South Florida.

That way senior citizens can book an appointment as fast as they can rather than waiting for days or even weeks to receive help from a translator.

"This is a matter of public health, and by specifically excluding one group of people, you know you're not tending to the public health as a country as a whole," said Blanco.

The center has been helping the Spanish-speaking community with booking appointments.

"So what we do, we have a list where we put their information, and we try to do it for them from here," said Micaela Martin, an outreach caseworker.

According to the data from the state's Department of Health vaccine summary for Palm Beach County, out of the 196,524 people who have been vaccinated, only 3.6% were Hispanics. While people who were vaccinated that are White were 64.8%.

"We have a lot of elderly family members, uncles," Olga said. "They are worried because if they get sick, they don't have a chance or the privilege to get the vaccine."

"We do have the translation of the website for vaccine as a possible future enhancement," Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix, said in an email.