A COVID-19 vaccine is administered, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Brownsville, Texas, during a vaccination clinic at Texas Southmost College (TSC) ITEC Center. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

A grandmother was eager to get a Covid-19 vaccine. She called a hotline but no one answered for weeks

Updated 1:55 PM ET, Thu March 11, 2021

San Antonio, Texas (CNN)Rosie Arguello spent the past couple of months glued to her cellphone and landline, calling a hotline to get a Covid-19 vaccine. When she heard the busy signal, she called again, and again, and again.

The 66-year-old who lives in San Antonio's South side would only put her phones down to take her 2-year-old grandniece on a walk, cook chorizo and eggs for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and a casserole by dinner time.
"I will wash the dishes in a hurry and then get back to it," said Arguello, who doesn't own a computer.
Rosie Arguello and her husband Jimmy Arguello of San Antonio, Texas, tried for months to get Covid-19 vaccine appointments.
Latinos have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, but have been vaccinated at far lower rates than White Americans. When the Covid-19 vaccine was initially approved, some Latinos were skeptical and worried it would make them sick. While some are still hesitant nearly three months later, others like Arguello who are eager to get inoculated are facing numerous barriers.
Jane Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, said there are many factors diminishing access to the vaccine, including registration websites that are not intuitive or only available in English. People have to travel long distances to vaccination sites and clinics that serve underserved communities are either not equipped with refrigerators to store the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or have not been allocated any doses.
"When people say the Hispanic community is hard to reach, I say 'baloney.' People know how to reach us when they want to do it," Delgado said. "When people want to sell us things regardless of what it is, they know how to be culturally consistent and language appropriate. We have to do the same thing now with the vaccine."
Earlier this week, the Biden administration announced it will be allocating $250 million in federal grants to local governments in an effort to encourage Covid-19 safety and vaccination among underserved populations over the course of two years.
"Our goal is to provide underserved communities with the information they need to stay safe and to get vaccinated," Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday about the program during a virtual address to the National League of Cities. "And remember, information and education, of course, save lives."

Younger Latinos are stepping up

Securing a Covid-19 vaccine slot has been a challenge for many people over 65, especially due to their lack of computer literacy skills, access to Internet or limited English proficiency. In response to that, younger Latinos have been troubleshooting for them or taken the responsibility of finding appointments for their parents and grandparents.
After cleaning homes and struggling to maintain work during the pandemic, Constanza Segovia's parents couldn't wait to book an appointment. The artist and activist living in Hartford, Connecticut, said her mother was excited when she called saying they booked an appointment online.
"Then, when they went to the appointment, they found out they actually hadn't signed up. For some reason, the system didn't capture their appointment," Segovia said.
Graciela Segovia got vaccinated for Covid-19 at a site in Torrington, Connecticut.
Her mother was able to receive a dose that day but was not scheduled for the second dose. Her father was just turned down. Segovia spent weeks navigating confusing websites and calling information lines trying to help them. As a formerly undocumented woman, Segovia says, she noticed that some providers in her state are requiring photo IDs or asking people to enter social security numbers and health insurance information when they register.
"If you don't have it, you're gonna stop there," Segovia said. "It's very unclear that you can skip it. Are you really trying to get us all vaccinated?"
Last week, Segovia was able to secure the appointments for her parents. It was especially difficult because she had to make sure they were at sites near their rural Connecticut home or at a time that wouldn't force them to miss work even if they had to drive an hour away.
"They can't do all of this while they're at work. I happen to be at home with a baby. If you don't call during the day, we miss the window and it's only Monday through Friday," Segovia said.

Surviving the 'worst chapter'

Ciro Ochoa Jr. spent three weeks in the hospital, fighting Covid-19 as the Rio Grande Valley region was ravaged by the virus and it became the main hotspot in Texas. In the past weeks, he's helped others get vaccinated.
"It was the worst chapter of my life," said the 66-year-old real estate attorney. "But I feel so blessed by God that I'm still alive."
He felt sick, lonely and was isolated from his family because he lost his cellphone in the emergency room. He couldn't stand the food and couldn't go home because he was not able to control his oxygen levels. By the time he was released from the hospital, Ochoa said he felt blessed because four of his friends who were also hospitalized for Covid-19 didn't survive.
People eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine in the Rio Grande Valley have been mostly summoned to hospitals and colleges in the region.
Ochoa, who suffers from diabetes and recovered from a brain aneurysm before the pandemic, was vaccinated earlier this year. The side effects he suffered didn't make him regret taking the shot.
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