US works to combat vaccine mistrust and misinformation among Latinos
Across the country, public health officials have warned that vaccine conspiracy theories and rumors in Spanish have bred mistrust and hesitancy among some sections of the US Latino population.

Providing Spanish-language information on Covid-19 and vaccines and combating misinformation amongst Latinos and other communities of color are a key focus of the government as vaccination campaigns ramp up across the country, according to Dr. Eliseo J. Perez-Stable, the Director of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Across the country, public health officials have warned that vaccine conspiracy theories and rumors in Spanish have bred mistrust and hesitancy among some sections of the US Latino population.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dr. Perez-Stable said that language "is an important issue" when it comes to public health in the Latino community. Approximately 20% of the US Latino community is predominantly Spanish-speaking, with about 50% mostly speaking the language at home.

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"Having quality translation is a high priority for us," he said in response to a question from LPO."

"Particularly in areas like Texas, Florida and California, there are many expert scientists who know how to do this and do it well," he said.

Additionally, Dr. Perez-Stable noted that "misinformation" on social media continues to pose a challenge.

"I believe that we have been a bit passive in responding to this initially," he said. "We need to promote facts and science, rather than necessarily counter every single unusual claim about Covid-19 or the vaccine."

The key, he added, would be in addressing concerns directly to members of the community.

"We address those concerns in our materials and unequivocally answer when we have clear information," the doctor said. "We need to be very clear and use simple language. That's how we need to often respond to patient's questions."

Statistics show that Latinos have been among the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

Data from the Center for American Progress, for example, show that Latinos are 1.7 times more likely to contract the Covid-19 virus than their white counterparts, as well as 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.8 times more likely to die as a result of the virus.

The latest statistics from the Center for Disease Control - from April 8 - show that that of the more than 112 million people that have received one vaccine does, only 10.7% are Latino, compared to 65.2% who are white. Of the 38 million who have been fully vaccinated, only 8.7% are Latino.

Latinos have also been disproportionally impacted by pandemic-induced job losses and accounted for 23% of initial job losses. By January, the unemployment rate among Latinos stood at 8.6%, compared to 9.2% for African-Americans and 5.7% for whites.

The pandemic's impact on Latinos and the role they could play in the US recovery have rapidly become political priorities for the Biden administration.

Building support among the community is crucial for Democrats as they battle Republicans for support in one of the country's most important electorates.

In late March, for example, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Biden both sought to reassure Latinos that help was on the way.

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"We know Latinos historically face discrimination when it comes to securing support for their businesses," Biden said. "We have a lot of work ahead, but together we are going to get our economy on track and hang an open sign on tens of thousands of Latino small businesses again."

In some parts of the country, support for Democrats may be slipping as a result of the pandemic and the response.

Polling data shows that California Governor Gavin Newsom, for example - who faces the prospect of a recall later this - is losing support among Latinos in areas in which some feel as though the state government has been unresponsive to their needs during the pandemic.

This is particularly true of California's Central Valley, a heavily Latino area where more than half of voters have expressed support for a recall.

"That's a heavily Latino, heavily immigrant part of the state," Probolsky Research president Adam Probolsky said in an interview with LPO.

"I think sometimes it feels as if it's left behind, and that's probably what many feel during this time of a health crisis and global pandemic...I think they're looking to lay the blame that they're part of California and their community was not taken care of."

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