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'A grave disease in our community': North Texas leaders urge Latinos to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Community leaders are urging those in Latino communities to register so they can get the coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible.

Latinos are four times as likely as white Americans to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and almost three times as likely to die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“It is a grave disease in our community," said Dr. Mayra Jimenez Thompson of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Jimenez knows the impact all too well. 

“I have four family members that have died. Three cousins and one aunt,” she said.

That's why Jimenez is urging Latinos in North Texas to get the vaccine as soon as possible. 

“It is important for us as a community to share this information," she said.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said time is of the essence when it comes to getting the Latino population registered to get immunized. 

“We are going to run out, at the current rate, in the next two weeks of Hispanics over the age of 65 over a lack of registration,” he explained Friday.

New numbers from Dallas County show Latinos make up only 16% of the county's vaccine registrations, despite making up 41% of the population. 

Latino community leaders like County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia say more outreach efforts, like a registration drive in Oak Cliff, are needed. 

“The Latino community and the African American community have been hurt the most," said Garcia.

Collaborative efforts are also underway in neighboring Tarrant County. 

Dr. Theresa Wagner of the UNT Health Science Center is working with organizations like Community Engaged Alliance and the Tarrant County Immunization Collaborative, serving communities of color. 

“What we’re doing is also working on messaging that will be well-accepted and well understood," Wagner said.

Dr. Thompson said breaking cultural barriers is the key to saving lives. 

“We need to educate. We need to expose the community to the correct information," she said.