As the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, several states are beginning to report the demographic makeup of their vaccine distribution numbers.
Unfortunately, Latinos make up a very low percentage of those getting a vaccine, despite being disproportionately hurt by COVID-19.
Let’s take a look at the data.
COVID-19 Vaccination for Latinos by State
Only 17 out of 50 states report a racial/ethnic breakdown of their COVID-19 vaccine distribution numbers that specify Hispanics/Latinos, as of Jan. 25, 2021.
All states that have reported demographics of vaccine distribution show that Latinos are getting vaccinated at a much lower rate.
Even in states with a high Latino population, like Texas and New Jersey, Latinos make up less than 10% of those vaccinated.
0.70% of vaccinated people are Latino.
3.5% of North Dakota’s population is Latino.
0.75% of vaccinated people are Latino.
3% of Mississippi’s population is Latino.
1.30% of vaccinated people are Latino.
7% of Pennsylvania’s population is Latino.
1.40% of vaccinated people are Latino.
10% of Nebraska’s population is Latino.
1.70% of vaccinated people are Latino.
5.6% of Alaska’s population is Latino.
1.74% of vaccinated people are Latino.
3.9% of Ohio’s population is Latino.
1.80% of vaccinated people are Latino.
2% of Vermont’s population is Latino.
2% of vaccinated people are Latino.
9% of Delaware’s population is Latino.
2.03% of vaccinated people are Latino.
5% of Tennessee’s population is Latino.
2.20% of vaccinated people are Latino.
6% of Indiana’s population is Latino.
3% of vaccinated people are Latino.
9% of North Carolina’s population is Latino.
3.50% of vaccinated people are Latino.
11% of Massachusetts’ population is Latino.
3.70% of vaccinated people are Latino.
9% of Virginia’s population is Latino.
3.90% of vaccinated people are Latino.
9% of Maryland’s population is Latino.
4.80% of vaccinated people are Latino.
12% of Oregon’s population is Latino.
5% of vaccinated people are Latino.
20.4% of New Jersey’s population is Latino.
8.30% of vaccinated people are Latino.
39.7% of Texas’ population is Latino.
Source: Data from state health department and U.S. Census websites as of Jan. 25, 2021.
Why Are Latinos Getting Vaccinated Less?
Lack of access and vaccine hesitancy might be the answer.
Most states are following CDC recommendations with vaccine rollout by prioritizing health care workers and elderly people living in assisted living facilities.
However, these overarching groups leave states open to interpret who is defined as a “health care worker,” sometimes leaving out essential workers who are still regularly exposed to COVID-19, such as janitorial and cleaning staff. And often, essential workers and service workers are Latino and Black.
“That’s what structural racism looks like,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, according to KHN. “Those groups were seen and not heard — nobody thought about it.”
Lack of access can also mean fewer vaccination sites in communities of color, such as in the greater Boston area.
“In Suffolk County, which includes Boston as well as Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Black and Latino residents face stark disparities in vaccine access: Fewer than 14 percent of Black residents and roughly 26 percent of Latinos live in census tracts that are within 1 mile of a vaccination site, compared with nearly 46 percent of white residents,” according to the Boston Globe.
With fewer vaccination sites in hard-hit areas, residents are expected to travel across the city to receive a vaccine – an often unrealistic ask for those who can’t afford transportation costs or are unable to take time off from work.
“Once again, we are in the back of the line and we are forgotten and neglected,” said Dinanyili Paulino, chief operating officer of La Colaborativa, a Latino-focused social services organization in the greater Boston area, according to the Boston Globe. “Why should we have to come to Fenway? We are the epicenter. They should come to us. … Our members don’t even have 50 cents to ride the bus.”
Vaccine hesitancy might be another major reason why Latinos are falling behind in vaccination count.
A survey conducted by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 86% of Latinos said they would not want to receive a vaccine as soon as possible and that 66% of Latinos do not believe the vaccine will be safe.
However, we can help by building trust, empowering Latino community leaders, and making sure the information we share about COVID-19 is accurate and unbiased.
How Can We Help Latinos During COVID-19?
As vaccine rollout continues, we hope that states will prioritize Latinos and other people of color who have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19 for their vaccine distribution plans.
“COVID-19 has obviously amplified the disparities that already exist, and when we have efficacious interventions to address problems and we don’t get them to the most vulnerable … we’re going to end up with worse disparities,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, an infectious diseases specialist at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals, according to the Boston Globe.
You can fight the disparities in your community by raising awareness of inequities among your neighbors. Download a customized Salud America! Health Equity Report Card to see how many of your neighbors face inequities in food access, education, income, health care, and much more.
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share it on social media, and use it to make the case to give vaccine access where help is needed most.
We can also help by sharing accurate information on how to protect one another from COVID-19.
Share our Salud America! “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” digital communication campaign in English or Spanish to help Latino families and workers take action to slow the spread of coronavirus, including getting the vaccine when available.
The #JuntosStopCovid campaign features culturally relevant fact sheets, infographics, and video role model stories to encourage Latinos to practice safe public health behaviors.
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