Hispanic community calling on VDH to address access to COVID-19 vaccines and tests

Community leaders say there is a disconnect
Covid testing
Posted at 11:13 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 23:01:11-05

HAMPTON, Va. – Getting your hands on a COVID-19 test in 2021 should be relatively easy, but that’s not the reality for everyone.

“He went there, and he was turned away because he did not have a social security number,” said Elizabeth Torres.

Torres is the Director of the Hispanic Resource Center in Hampton.

A man living in Virginia Beach informed Torres that he was turned away when he went to a local CVS to get a COVID-19 test.

News 3 immediately reached out to the Virginia Health Department for answers.

“I did have a member of my testing team reach out to CVS,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi. He’s the Chief Deputy Commissioner at VDH.

We asked if a social security number is required before getting a test.

He tells us, "The CVS personnel do ask, but what we were told is that they will test regardless if someone provides their social security number or not.”

Dr. Jaberi says at Walgreens, they don’t ask for your social security number.

Torres says many members of the Hispanic community say they’ve had to pay between $125-$200 for a test.

“You are categorizing them under ‘free testing’ when our constituents go, 'It's not free,'” Torres adds.

On the VDH website, when you select “free testing available,” several CVS locations pop up.

"It is a little difficult. It depends on what test you are taking and where you go,” adds Dr. Jaberi.

He says federal funding is supposed to take care of the cost at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.

"In the partnership we have with HHS, our understanding is we want to make sure that cost does not become a barrier to testing, so the cost is being deferred through a third-party payer,” adds Jaberi.

Torres says there are many barriers between the Hispanic community and the state, including language.

Members of the resource center say they don’t want to see the same misinformation with the vaccine rollout.

“We receive phone calls. We are asked questions, and they have nowhere to turn,” said Patricia Baracknell. She’s the Director of Outreach and Awareness at the HRC.

Right now, the HRC is helping the community sign up for vaccines. They say they were able to get about 270 from Sentara, but they say that is not enough. Now, they are calling on the state.

“The amount of need right now is immense,” says Johnny Garcia.

He is the President of the Hispanic Chamber of Coastal Virginia.

In a two-page letter to Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver, the HRC is offering its assistance for COVID-19 outreach and awareness to the Hispanic community in Hampton Roads.

If you take a look at the health department's dashboard, the Latino community makes up 18% if the COVID-19 cases in the state, but they're less than 10% of Virginia's population.

“These people trust us - that’s why they come to us. But we have to have the right information,” said Garcia.

He says if not, COVID-19 will continue to spread in the Hispanic community.

According to, “Hospitalization rates were highest among Latinos, at 3.2 times the rate among whites."

It's an ongoing health disparity we are seeing in minority communities.

“It breaks our heart constantly,” said Baracknell.

The health department says there are some ways to get involved.

"Sign up as an official MRC volunteer and your skills are communications,” adds Dr. Jaberi.

Click here for full coronavirus coverage.