COVID-19 Vaccines: Why Hispanic Americans Are Lagging in Vaccination Rates
Community health organizers are at the forefront of the fight to equitably distribute vaccines.
The United States’ vaccination campaign has administered more than 143 million doses, with 15.5% of the total US population considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But the campaign has failed to reach some of the most vulnerable populations, including Hispanic communities, according to the New York Times.
Across the country, Hispanic people are underrepresented among those vaccinated for COVID-19. White, non-Hispanic people have received a higher share of COVID-19 vaccines compared to their share of cases and deaths, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). This trend is also seen in states that have large Hispanic populations.
For example, in California, 21% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 55% of cases, 46% of deaths, and 40% of the total population in the state.
Alongside inequities faced by communities of color that have caused Black and Latinx people to be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, various barriers are causing limited access to vaccines and preventing Hispanic people from achieving higher vaccination rates.
Scheduling a vaccine requires access to the internet and digital tools, which can be limited for older people and immigrants. Language barriers prevent people from knowing how to make a vaccine appointment and learn about eligibility, as most information about the COVID-19 vaccines are in English.
“People didn’t even know that there was a vaccine when we talked to them,” Gilda Pedraza, the executive director of the Latino Community Fund in Atlanta, told the New York Times.
Fear is another potential reason why Hispanic people are underrepresented among the demographics of vaccinated people in the US. For example, many people are unaware that COVID-19 vaccines are free for all people and are afraid it will cost too much to get vaccinated, and that their work will not provide time off. In addition, undocumented immigrants may be worried about their immigration status should they choose to get the vaccine.
In February, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that is supports equal access to the COVID-19 vaccines for undocumented immigrants and will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics. Still, community health advocates say that some people are not willing to take the risk, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
To make up for this gap in health care equity, community members are stepping up. Mutual aid groups across the country are providing information about COVID-19 to those who may have trouble accessing it, while volunteers have also offered to help eligible people book vaccine appointments, according to Curbed.
Advocates say that states that partner with community-based organizations are administering the vaccine more equitably than others. By coordinating a localized effort with people in the community, information can be shared more efficiently to help get more shots in arms.
The Biden administration is attempting to speed up the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout by opening more vaccination sites and expanding eligibility, according to the New York Times.
The efforts to correct the vaccination gap for Hispanic people are having some success. Data coming out of community health centers that are providing vaccinations show that 54% of people who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine were people of color, with 26% identifying as Hispanic, according to KFF. This early data shows the ability of targeted efforts to connect with the country’s Hispanic population can pay off.