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Spanish-language COVID-19 vaccine website goes live in Arizona, but users experience glitches

Arizona has been administering the COVID-19 vaccine for two months. It wasn't until Tuesday that a Spanish-language website was up and running.

PHOENIX — A much-needed resource is finally available for Arizona’s Spanish-speaking residents: A state-run patient portal site to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Arizona Department of Health Services launched the Spanish option on Tuesday, two months after the state began to administer the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The long-overdue resource, which came almost a year into the pandemic, still needs work, as the site experienced glitches.

“Resources are not reaching us,” said 91-year-old Gustavo Varela, a Phoenix resident who wants to get his COVID-19 dose, but, because he doesn’t speak English, the process to sign up has been difficult.

His daughter, Juana Calderon, has tried to schedule him a spot but has been unsuccessful, as she speaks limited English.

“There are some things you don’t understand, and if it’s in Spanish, it will be easier for us to get the application,” Calderon said.

But frustration grew for Calderon on launch day of the Spanish site. A yellow message that said there were no available appointments covered most of her cellphone screen. Once she finally got to the registration page and filled it out, no activation email was sent to her inbox.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Chicanos Por La Causa noticed a disconnect between the information and essential resources to effectively manage and maneuver through the crisis, and that’s when we launched Conexión,” said Maria Jesus Cervantes of Chicanos Por La Causa.

Cervantes said their community organization launched its own Spanish COVID information site back in April 2020.

Since then, they’ve had conversations with the state on what is needed to reach the Latino community. But so far, only people in wealthier zip codes in Maricopa County are getting vaccinated at higher rates.

State Health Director Dr. Cara Christ has said they’ll be opening five to ten “micro-pods” in March to reach communities with low-vaccine rates.

“My biggest concern is that the virus will reach us. Getting sick, that’s not what I want”, said Calderon.  

12 News reached out to the state for comment on why it took so long for a Spanish language site, and about the glitches, but has not received a response.

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