2 hard-hit cities, 2 diverging fates in vaccine rollout

Two predominantly Latino cities in neighboring states were hit hard by COVID-19. But Rhode Island's Central Falls and Chelsea, Massachusetts, have had diverging fates in the global rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. (Feb. 24)

Video Transcript

EUGENIO FERNANDEZ: And we design a business model for vaccinating workflow, health care workflow, very efficiently. So what we did was we wanted to-- we had two things in mind. We wanted to vaccinate everyone efficiently-- so that's as many people as possible-- and safely. And we were able to do so.

We have vaccinators here, we bring our vaccinators and observers. Some of them drive from New Hampshire. We have a cardiologist that drives from New Hampshire. We have a nurse practitioner today. We have pharmacy students. We have physicians. We have an oncology fellow.

I mean, just helping people. My goal has been-- when I was in grad school, I went to undergrad at URI, I went to grad school at Harvard, and my goal has been to help as many people as I can.

MARIA RIVERA: Anybody who lives or works in the city of Central Falls is a priority. So we started in December with residents who were 75 and older, because they're the most vulnerable population. A week later, about a week and a half later, we brought it down to 65 and over. Then we brought it down to 50. And now it's anybody who is 18 and over who lives in this community or also works in this community.


IVAN ESPINOZA-MADRIGAL: Chelsea, Massachusetts and Central Falls, Rhode Island are strikingly similar communities. We're talking about geographically compact communities, about one square mile each. And the residents are heavily immigrant. These are predominantly low income communities. And both are home to many essential workers who have been at high risk of COVID infection.

In fact, both of these communities, Chelsea and Central Falls, have been COVID hotspots.


The distinctions between the communities are also striking. While in Central Falls, Rhode Island the state has implemented many different community based vaccination options, including door to door vaccination, in Chelsea we don't have that type of effort. In Massachusetts, we are relying primarily in centralized state-run massive vaccination sites. Many of these sites are far from Chelsea. They are inaccessible to the community.

- Appointment for tomorrow at 7:00 AM for the first COVID-19 vaccine.

IVAN ESPINOZA-MADRIGAL: And so we are leaving residents in Chelsea behind. We're talking about low income families. Immigrant families. People of color who desperately need the vaccine and who are really an afterthought in the state rollout.