DOWNEY, Calif. — On a recent Thursday morning, Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez was getting ready to head out.
“I am putting together some printouts, some handouts that will provide a lot of information about the most common questions that people have about the vaccine,” said Gonzalez.
Dr. Gonzalez works for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Her job during this pandemic has been to try to inform Spanish-speaking communities about the virus and now the vaccine.
“I am on my way to my local Home Depot, where I’m going to talk to some day laborers,” she said.
While she's been doing a great deal of work to get the word out about vaccines, Dr. Gonzalez worries day laborers may be falling through the cracks.
"They’re doing manual labor jobs," she said. "They’re working hard all day. They’re not listening to the radio. They’re not watching television. And those are the ways that we are trying to get the word out, but they’re not individually able to listen to that often times."
Only 24% of Latino men between the ages of 16 and 29 in LA County have been vaccinated, even though Latino men are dying from COVID-19 at three times the rate of Caucasians.
“I feel like I’m doing what my heart is telling me to do, which is to really help my people,” said Dr. Gonzalez.
When Dr. Gonzalez arrives at the Home Depot, the day laborers start peppering her with questions. She brought her mother and father along to help her hand out the fliers.
Within the Latino community, day laborers are amongst the most disadvantaged and high-risk, having to work with different groups of people every day, with limited access to soap, water and PPE and often living in crowded homes.
One of them is 32-year-old Douglas Alexander Castillo, who contracted COVID-19 last March while detained at an immigration detention center in Arizona.
“A lot of people in the detention center were infected," said Castillo in Spanish. "A lot of people. Some even died."
But even though he was already infected, Castillo still hasn’t been vaccinated.
"One reason is because I hear that you needed documents, and I don’t have any documents," he said. "The other reason is that I heard a lot of things on the news, and so that’s why I haven’t gotten it."
Dr. Gonzalez explained that they don’t ask for your immigration status when getting vaccinated, and that you also don’t need insurance.
“Now that I have this information, I’m going to think about it and see if maybe I get the vaccine,” said Castillo.
As it turned out, listening patiently and answering questions might be one of the best ways to combat vaccine hesitancy.
"They’ve told me they feel like someone finally cares," said Dr. Gonzalez. "And so giving them that information in-person seems to have been very much appreciated and very well received."