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Maria Maldonado knows what it’s like to experience the tragedy of COVID-19.
She lost five family members to the virus in the past year, including her mother.
“It was just a tidal wave. And it was just very hard for us to go through something so tragic, back to back. It was a very difficult time,” Maldonado said.
When the vaccine became available for adults, Maldonado couldn’t wait to get one.
“I was not hesitant at all. Why? Because I trust science. They developed it fast, but they still took the protocols and the safety measures that they had to take,” Maldonado said.
Once the vaccine was available for children ages 5 to 11, Maldonado got her 9-year-old son Jacob vaccinated.
She hopes that other Latino parents will vaccinate their children and help protect the Latino community, which has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“I feel a sense of relief. And I feel like it’s a little bit of a step forward in trying to help one another, and being a good citizen,” Maldonado said.
How COVID-19 Affected Maldonado and Her Community
Maldonado is a customer service representative who lives in McAllen, Texas (85% Latino), a city on the border with Mexico.
Many communities along the border have been widely impacted by COVID-19.
“The Rio Grande Valley is a highly Hispanic community. Our local hospitals at [the peak of the pandemic] were packed. They were not getting the help under the previous administration that they should have,” Maldonado said.
That’s why Maldonado was nervous when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted COVID-19 restrictions in March 2021 despite a continued increase in cases.
“I had this very sinking feeling that we’re going to lose a lot of not only Texans, but especially in the Hispanic community, because of the fact that there’s multiple generations that live in one household,” Maldonado said.
Hospitals on the border were overwhelmed with COVID-19 and lacked the resources to give many families the care they needed.
“Rio Grande City is about 45 minutes away from us and Rio Grande City has one tiny little hospital. So you’re talking about people that live in those rural communities, on their own little ranches, so at the height of the pandemic, they were being turned away. Family members were actually literally dying in the parking lots, in their homes, in their cars,” Maldonado.
The toll on the community was devastating.
“It was just something that no family should have gone through,” Maldonado said.
Unfortunately, Maldonado also lost family of her own.
“COVID has impacted my life in a very personal way. I lost a total of five family members back to back to COVID, including my mother, two of her sisters, her brother-in-law, which is my uncle, and an older cousin of mine,” Maldonado said.
She was thankful that there were still some available ICU beds for her family members.
“I was blessed enough that that my mom and her sisters were able to get a bed, because right after they got a bed, there was no more beds available. There were at max capacity in all hospitals,” Maldonado said.
No Fears About Getting Vaccinated
When the vaccine became available, Maldonado got in line as soon as she could.
“I trust science and this science has been around. It’s just that the development part of it was a little faster, but I trusted it. We all immediately jumped on board on getting this vaccine as soon as possible,” Maldonado said.
She’s relieved that many of her relatives also chose to get vaccinated as soon as they were eligible. But others are still hesitant.
“The surviving members of my family who also had gotten COVID at that time, also in Mexico, my other aunts, they also got the vaccine as soon as possible. But then of course, I also have other family members that even though we’ve been through this tragedy, they’re still like, ‘No, I’m not going to take it.’ And I just don’t get it,” Maldonado said.
Maldonado hopes to continue to convince as many as possible to get vaccinated to prevent further loss of loved ones.
“I’m just trying to get the word out to as many people as I can. There’s no other alternative other than tragedy, believe me, tragedy, if you don’t take the vaccine. I urge everybody to please go out and get it as soon as possible,” Maldonado said.
Getting Her 9-Year-Old Son Vaccinated
When the vaccine was approved for children ages 5 to 11 in October 2021, Maldonado was ready to have her son Jacob vaccinated.
Their local pediatrician didn’t yet have the vaccine available, so Maldonado and her family drove to the hospital.
While the wait was long, it was definitely worth it.
“It was amazing to see so many families, so many parents there. We waited about two hours in line just to get the vaccine. But I would have waited six to 12 hours, I don’t know, however long it takes,” Maldonado said.
Jacob wasn’t scared to get vaccinated and didn’t even think the shot was painful.
“He was happy about it. And he took it with no pain. No, he was not scared or anything. The needles are really, really tiny. All the kids there were very excited to get it,” Maldonado said.
The vaccine is a relief for Maldonado and her son because now they feel safer sending him back to school.
“He’s been home-schooled since last school year, so it’s about a year and a half already. I think after the Christmas break, we were thinking of him going back to in-person learning. My husband and I feel a little bit safer now that he has a vaccine,” Maldonado said.
She hopes that other Latina moms will make the same choice, to protect their children and their community.
“Please do it for your babies. I urge you to get vaccinated today, for yourself and for your little ones. So please just talk to your doctor. Get all your questions answered. Especially from other parents who have gone through so much as well. Please, I just urge everybody to get their children vaccinated,” Maldonado said.
How Can We Help Latinos Get Vaccinated?
Stay informed by learning the facts about COVID-19 and the vaccine and avoiding vaccine misinformation, which is prominent and often targets Latinos.
One resource you can use is Salud America!’s Latino COVID-19 Vaccine “Change of Heart” Bilingual Storytelling Campaign. The campaign, also in Spanish, shares the stories of real Latinos who overcame misinformation, got the vaccine, reconnected with family, and are helping end the pandemic.
Helen Cordova is one of the Latinas who was unsure about the vaccine initially. She was nervous it was produced too quickly and that it wouldn’t be safe.
But after learning more about the vaccine, she decided to get it so she could protect her family and her patients in the ICU. She became the first person in California to get vaccinated!
You can share Helen’s story with your friends, family, and colleagues!
By The Numbers
This success story was produced by Salud America! with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The stories are intended for educational and informative purposes. References to specific policymakers, individuals, schools, policies, or companies have been included solely to advance these purposes and do not constitute an endorsement, sponsorship, or recommendation. Stories are based on and told by real community members and are the opinions and views of the individuals whose stories are told. Organization and activities described were not supported by Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and do not necessarily represent the views of Salud America! or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.