Latinos are most eager to be vaccinated, survey shows – but face obstacles

Hispanics who have not yet received a Covid shot say about twice as often as non-Hispanic whites or blacks that they want to get vaccinated as soon as possible, according to a survey published on Thursday. The results suggest recoverable, albeit difficult, problems in accessing vaccines for the population.

A third of unvaccinated Hispanics say they want the shots, compared with 17% of blacks and 16% of whites, according to the poll released Thursday by KFF. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the KFF.)

A third of Hispanic adults who haven’t received the Covid-19 vaccination say they want to get it “ASAP. The number is roughly double that of black and white non-Hispanic groups and suggests that Hispanics’ targeting education and outreach about vaccine represents a great opportunity to increase the overall vaccination rate.(KFF)

The results reflect an opportunity for health departments and local governments to reach out to Hispanics with information and vaccination teams, said Liz Hamel, vice president and director of public opinion and polling research at KFF and director of the organization’s monthly Covid vaccine surveys.

“There is definitely a large segment of the Hispanic population out there looking to get it, but they either couldn’t put it on their schedule or they have some concerns or questions or they couldn’t access it. Said Hamel.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 13% of people in the US who have received at least one dose of vaccine are Hispanics, although they make up about 17% of the total population. (Only about half of the CDC data includes race or ethnicity of people who were vaccinated.)

Among the unvaccinated Hispanics, 64% were worried about being out of work due to side effects of the vaccine, and 52% were worried about paying for the admissions – even though the admissions are free. These numbers are even higher for Hispanics who lack legal permanent residence status.

Among the unvaccinated Hispanics, the two top concerns cited about the Covid-19 vaccine are the possibility of missing work to recover from the side effects and concerns that they might be billed for the shots.(KFF)

“It’s hard for someone who lives a day to move out half a day to come to a clinic and try to get vaccinated,” said Dr. José Perez, Chief Medical Officer of the South Central Family Health Center, a nonprofit health organization with clinic locations across southern Los Angeles. “If you don’t work that day, you won’t make a living and you won’t eat.”

According to the KFF survey, those facing immigration problems were more likely to be concerned about being asked to provide a government-issued ID card or social security number.

The Trump administration’s immigration policy has discouraged people from using public health services fearing it could jeopardize their immigration status, Pérez said.

“For Americans who are used to having order in their lives and not having to be afraid of this or that, this may seem a little strange,” he said. “But for the immigrant community in South LA, these are factors they deal with on a daily basis.”

Despite the hopeful message of the survey, the Pérez organization has only given a fraction of the doses available, despite expanding vaccination sites and now giving a chance to anyone who enters one of their clinics, Pérez said.

“All we can do is move our name forward, educate it, and keep it public,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll catch up.”

The Biden government recently announced tax credits for small businesses that give their workers paid time off to get the shot and recover in the event of side effects. Providers are not allowed to charge fees for the Covid vaccine and must fire shots regardless of immigration status or health insurance coverage.

In California, where Hispanics make up nearly 40% of the population, 48% of covid deaths and 63% of covid infections, about 32% have received vaccinations. Cases and deaths are particularly concentrated in dense, low-income neighborhoods, the majority of which are Latinos.

Community health clinics and organizations across the state are calling for vaccinations on sidewalks, in supermarkets, and other places where people gather to make sure people know how to sign up for a shot.

In the zip code around the headquarters of the South Central Family Health Center, only 16% of eligible residents had at least one shot on May 7, according to the California Department of Health’s vaccine tracker. Five months after the country’s vaccination campaign began, as the CDC loosens mask recommendations, the clinic is still pushing for the importance of masks as few people have been vaccinated, Pérez said.

“Vaccine hesitation” has become a blanket excuse to explain low vaccination rates among minorities, but the problem is complex, said Nancy Mejía, chief program officer of Latino Health Access in Santa Ana, Calif., A nonprofit that contracts with Orange has completed county to bring latino vaccine.

Their group’s community health workers or PromoterasMeet people facing a variety of obstacles to get the shot, she said.

Carmelo Morales was skeptical about the Covid-19 vaccine. But when he saw his colleagues and families contract the disease and came across a vaccination incident on his way home from work, he was able to get his first Pfizer shot in late April.(Anna Almendrala / KHN)

“We hear all these questions about ‘Well, I don’t have health insurance’ or ‘Do I have to pay?’ or ‘I don’t have an email, how do I register?’ “Said Mejía. “When people talk about hesitation, we really need to ask what we are talking about and not keep blaming people who have really good questions.”

After the demand for vaccine appointments dropped, Mejía and her group are focusing more on mobile vaccine events in condos, file sharing sites, and parking lots where pedestrians and residents can easily walk. The events take place in the evenings after work or on the weekend to make the decision to vaccinate as easy as possible.

“We see other places that were open all day and only brought in five people,” she said. “So if we’re only open a few hours in the evening and have over 100 people, that’s a success story.”

Carmelo Morales, a 35-year-old Los Angeles resident, considered himself a skeptical vaccine. After speaking to friends and seeing posts on Instagram, he feared the footage might be a conspiracy to make people sick. He didn’t see the urgency to get a shot.

But Morales, who works at a meat packing plant, is deeply affected by the cases and deaths he has seen among colleagues and their families over the past year. One day in late April, as he was walking home from work, he noticed health workers in a church near his home packing up after a covid vaccination incident.

He asked if there were any cans left and because his house was nearby the nurses were waiting for him to run home to get his ID so he could get his first shot.

“I just thought about it and thought, hey, it would be better just to be on the safer side.”

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