Data suggests that Hispanic Americans across the United States are being vaccinated at a disproportionately slow rate, leading to concerns about vaccine inequality and misinformation during the pandemic.
Statistics released this week from the Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, show that in Florida - where Latinos account for 27% of the population and 24% of Covid-19 deaths - they've received only approximately 17% of vaccinations through March 1.
In California, where Latinos account for 40% of the population and 46% of deaths, the population accounts for 19% of vaccinations. By comparison, California's white population (36%) accounts for 36% of vaccinations.
In late February, California governor Gavin Newsom said the state needs to do "more and better" to provide outreach in Latino and Black communities that have been impacted by the pandemic.
The state with the highest proportion of Latinos is New Mexico, where they make up nearly half - 49% - of the population and 39% of Covid-19 deaths. There, they have received 39% of vaccinations, compared to 45% for white residents.
Dr. Mireya Wessolossky, a Venezuelan-born infectious disease specialist at the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Massachusetts, said that in many cases the Latino community is "very skeptical" about the vaccine process.
"There is a lot of mistrust in the Latino community. I have to talk to them and try educate them to reverse the misinformation they hear on social media," she said. "That's an unfortunate place to get information."
"Latinos are concerned about their identity, the need to have insurance, or the need to disclose information they don't want to disclose," Dr. Wessolossky said. "Others have listened to â€˜anti-vax' social media that leads them to wrongly believe, for example, that they will be infertile or have DNA damage."
A separate study released in December by H Code Media - the largest Hispanic digital media company in the US - found that a 63% of Hispanics plan on getting the vaccine when available, with 29% saying they plan to get the vaccine as soon as possible, and 34% saying that they will take it once they see that other people have taken it without negative effects.
Junell Cavero Harnal, a former Bernie Sanders advisor and senior vice president of political at H Code, said that the statistics suggest that while a majority of Latinos want to get the vaccines, there are obstacles that prevent them from doing so.
Many, she added, are at greater risk of exposure because of their frontline or service-industry jobs.
"The Latino community is one of the hardest hit, and has faced many obstacles during Covid-19, both from a financial and a health standpoint," she said. "They are also part of a â€˜digital divide'. There's a language difficulty about the registration process and getting information. That's added to the struggle."
"There's also misinformation, such as whether the vaccine is free or not," Harnal added. "Many resident aliens feel they are limited options to accept the vaccine, for example since some sites ask for social security information. That's not required."
The statistics also show that a slightly higher percentage of the Hispanic population (41%) has concerned about side effects, compared to the general population.
Harnal expressed optimism that many of these issues would be solved over the next several months as the Biden administration's vaccination campaign accelerates.
"Organizations such as ourselves and other think tanks and companies are bringing this to their attention," she said. "It's a hard time. You're dealing with a transition to a new administration. The states had been left alone for the last six or seven months to figure out how to distribute the vaccine...I think it will be solved, but time is of the essence."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Wednesday that the average number of vaccines does administered rose above two million for the first time. Just a month ago, the average was approximately 1.3 million.
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