Aurora’s doctor has tried to prioritize refugees with a coronavirus vaccine. Colorado told him to stop.

In late January, Dr. PJ Parmar, who runs Ardas Family Medicine, converted a section of an international business center in Northwest Aurora into a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. He wanted to immunize refugees in the city, where the vaccination rates were Trailing neighboring communities.

But he said that in the first few days, nearly half of the vaccine clinic shots went to white people, even though the clinic is in a zip code as only a fifth of the population is white.

He wanted to immunize more refugees from countries such as Nepal, Burma, Ethiopia, Iraq and Rwanda, many of whom are patients of Ardas Family Medicine and face language, cultural and cultural barriers to accessing the vaccine.

So he enacted a policy to vaccinate people who live in the 80,010 zip code, which has nearly 43,000 people and is among the poorest and most racially diverse people in the Denver metro area. Wrote a disclaimer on a sign outside the clinic and occasionally ask people to show their IDs.

But his policy conflicts with Colorado’s vaccination equity plan, which seeks to remove barriers to accessing an eligible person. Colorado Vaccine provider rules prohibit He asks for an identity. And on Monday, a top aide to Gov. Jared Polis informed Parmar that his policy violated the directions of the Governor.

“We share your commitment to the population of 80010,” Rick Palacio, the governor’s strategic advisor, wrote in an email to Parmar. He added, “Identification and proof of residency pose barriers to access for many Coloradians and disproportionately affect those in our immigrant communities and in Chloradan who do not have a home.”

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The conflict means that Parmar could be forced to open his clinic to more people – and he said would potentially serve fewer refugees – or risk losing access to the nearly 500 state-issued vaccines he said he receives and runs every week.

Parmar decided to open his own vaccination clinic for people outside of the postal code by asking them to sign up for the waiting list. He does so reluctantly, describing state policy as “equality of vaccines, not fair of vaccines.”

“At this stage, even health equity is not enough, we need positive health measures,” Parmar wrote in response to an email from the governor’s office.

he is In protest against the directive on Facebook. In a post on Tuesday, I answered what he considers allegations of discrimination.

“Did you realize how many healthcare entities have been doing this for decades? I can give you some of their names. If you have Blue Cross, you get an appointment today. If you have Medicaid (i.e. poor), your appointment will be months from now, or it won’t be Absolutely “.

Vials of Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are placed on top of a banner during the vaccination clinic at The Mango House in Aurora. (Elie Imadali, special for The Colorado Sun)

The standoff is the latest challenge to the governor’s plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. In February, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock failed Request For the governor to relinquish some control so that Denver can immunize more racial and ethnic minorities, prison inmates, and homeless people. Health officials in Chafee County this week were granted an exemption under the state’s plan to vaccinate inmates at a prison in Buena Vista after a South African strain of the virus infected the inmates. The Colorado Vaccine Plan does not prioritize prisoners.

The tension comes as the black and Latino populations, whose numbers have been hardest hit by the pandemic, are receiving the vaccine at disproportionately low rates. Parmar Clinic is a case in point. In April, he said 45% of 300 refugees tested were infected with COVID-19. And in Postal Code 80010, which is 51% Latino and 16% Black, less than half of 1% of the population has been vaccinated, compared to 10% of Colorado residents, according to data From the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

To help vaccinate communities facing barriers to vaccinations, Colorado has partnered with nonprofit and religious organizations to create 132 “equity vaccination clinics”. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, the state has given these clinics more than 50,000 vaccine doses. These clinics are generally open to anyone with an appointment.

But Glenn Mays, who heads the Colorado School of Public Health, said the state should use some clinics to target postal codes. The country’s prioritization of distributing the vaccine, he said, takes into account a number of important risk factors, including age and pre-existing health conditions.

“What it doesn’t do is realize that these risk factors are closely related and intertwined with geographic location,” Mays said. “We are in a class society and have very clear levels of geographic segregation.”

That is why he said Washington, D.C. and California, for example, are targeting vaccine distribution based on zip codes. It is a common public health strategy, he said, to recognize the underlying social and economic inequalities that tend to emerge based on where people live. Ultimately, he said, the state’s vaccine deployment plan will help determine whether health disparities in Colorado are growing. It will also determine “who is transferred to hospital, and whose health condition is at risk due to this virus, and in the end, who lives and who dies.”

Many health equity clinics in Colorado operate for several days and require appointments. But Parmar said this creates a barrier for some residents who do not have access to a phone or computer. Until Tuesday, he was trying to keep his clinic open six days a week and only accepting visits. He said he worried that making changes might upend his vaccination strategy, which relies largely on word of mouth, comfort and confidence.

People wait in line to get a Covid-19 vaccine during the vaccination clinic for residents of Postal Code 80010 and current refugee patients at Ardas Family Medicine. (Elie Imadali, special for The Colorado Sun)

19-year-old Aurora Betelihem Getahun said she considers Mango House a reliable supplier. Getahun, who came to Aurora from Ethiopia two years ago to seek asylum, returned to the clinic last week after helping her with the papers to get her green card. She is a nursing student working as a caregiver, so she was eligible to receive the vaccine in January. But she was hesitant. She said her cousin had to go to the emergency room after being hit by a bullet. Her getting COVID-19 in February helped change her mind.

“I don’t have much confidence in (the vaccine),” Getahun said. “I believe in it, which is why I take it. But not so much that I do not make a mask.”

Parmar said many people are heading to the clinic wary of the vaccine. He said he’s there to help the attorney and convince them to get the shot. He said others were suspicious. He said some people see vaccine clinic ads and think they’re too good to be true.

“You only assume in this neighborhood that no one is doing their best to help you,” Parmar said.

Parmar’s dispute with the Governor’s office is one of many disputes with the government. In March 2020, Aurora police officer pointed his pistol at him When he was carrying supplies from Mango House. In February, in the city of Cited by Aurora for violating the code He ordered him to remove a sign hanging between the mall and Colfax Street. The mark is still there. Parmar said he plans to leave it in the tree so that the city comes up with a better way to advertise its vaccination clinic.

Likewise, instead of organizing his clinic, he suggested that someone from the governor’s office talk to him about fairness. He said he welcomed the discussion. But he said it was sad that he needed to continue to defend himself.

He said, “You have to have a backbone to do the job.” “To do what? Vaccinate the poorest people?”

Dr. PJ Parmar sends emails to patients in his office in Ardas Family Medicine at The Mango House in Aurora. (Elie Imadali, special for The Colorado Sun)

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