Addressing COVID-19 vaccine concerns in Asian communities
- COVID-19 is a serious threat that has deeply impacted many Asian communities in California.
- The vaccines have been tested with Asian populations.
- They have also been reviewed by experts.
- All the vaccines are equally safe and effective.
- The vaccines keep people from getting sick and dying.
- Getting vaccinated protects the whole community.
- The vaccine is available to everyone over 16. But people in high-risk categories should get vaccinated first.
- The vaccines are free for everyone – regardless of immigration status or insurance.
- Appointments can be scheduled online or by phone in English, Tagalog, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer, and Punjabi and translation services are available.
COVID-19 vaccines are now available to most Californians. For some, this might bring a sense of relief. For others, there still may be concerns about getting vaccinated. Some people from certain racial and ethnic groups may hesitate to seek care. This may be due to distrust of government and healthcare systems that have been responsible for inequities in treatment. Some Asians in California may be concerned about leaving their homes to get vaccinated due to fears about anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment.
Asian communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Asian Americans in San Francisco account for more than half of COVID-related deaths. Unfortunately, much of the existing data lumps all Asian and Pacific Islander communities together. This makes it hard to identify the full impact COVID-19 has had on different Asian subgroups in California including Asian Indian, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Pakistani, Taiwanese, Thai, and Vietnamese populations.
Based on data that is available, four percent of nurses in the U.S. are Filipino Americans, but they represent 31.5% of nurse deaths in the U.S.
Because of these concerns, many doctors, scientists, and health experts have created resources to help address questions. Here are a few of the experts and groups working towards equity within Asian communities. Their work helps bring concerns Asian residents may have to the state and national level.
- Julia K. Choi is the president and CEO of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO). AAPCHO advocates for the unique and diverse health needs of Asian American (AA), Native Hawaiian (NH), and Pacific Islander (PI) communities. Their COVID-19 Resource Hub has tailored resources to reach AA, NH, and PI communities.
- Jeffrey B. Caballero is the Executive Director of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF). APIAHF is fighting for an equitable federal response to the pandemic. They want detailed demographic data for all communities. Find resources for AA, NH, and PI communities on their website.
- Dr. Erica Pan is the California State Epidemiologist. She is working to make sure that the vaccines are safe and effective and are distributed efficiently and equitably.
- Dr. Winston Wong is the Chair and Acting CEO of NCAPIP. He also chairs the Roundtable on Health Equity at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). NCAPIP advocates to address health disparities in Asian communities. NCAPIP also condemns the hate crimes Asian communities have faced in the wake of the pandemic.
In addition to these resources, it may be helpful to get more information from a family doctor or a community-based organization, such as Asian Health Services in the Bay Area, Asian Pacific Health Care Venture in Los Angeles, or any of the ones listed on the California Asian & Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus website.
Because of these concerns, many doctors, scientists, and health experts have created resources to help address questions. It may be helpful to get more information from a family doctor or a community-based organization, such as Asian Health Services in the Bay Area, Asian Pacific Health Care Venture in Los Angeles, or any of the ones listed on the California Asian & Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus website.
Are the vaccines safe for everyone?
Some people may wonder if the vaccines are safe for everyone. The APIAHF and the AAPCHO promote the collective interests of Asian physicians and their patients. Both organizations agree the vaccines are safe. They also encourage vaccination within Asian communities.
Diversity in clinical trials is important to ensure that vaccines are safe for everyone. The clinical trials for all the approved vaccines showed that the vaccines were safe for all participants. Asian populations were represented in all of the vaccine clinical trials.
- Moderna – 4.6% identified as Asian
- Pfizer-BioNTech – 4.3% identified as Asian
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)– 3.3% identified as Asian
Learn more about the vaccines' safety and effectiveness.
Are all the vaccines equal? Is one better than the other?
All the vaccines are very effective in preventing COVID-19. They also protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. In the trials, all three vaccines resulted in zero deaths or hospitalizations.
- Pfizer-BioNTech – 95% effective after second dose
- Moderna – 94.1% effective after second dose
- Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) – 85% effective after 28 days
These numbers are quite high for vaccines. To give some perspective, flu shots are typically only 40 to 60% effective.
For more details, read our vaccine FAQs.
What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
The vaccines are key for helping to end the pandemic. They offer protection from a life-threatening virus. They can keep people from getting sick. Or if someone does catch the virus, they can reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent hospitalization and death. They also protect against the potential long-term health effects of the virus.
Getting vaccinated might also help reduce the risk of and spread of new COVID-19 variants. These are new strains of the virus. Much is still unknown about the variants. But vaccinating is one powerful tool to help protect against the COVID-19 variants.
Is it possible to wait a little longer before getting vaccinated?
The CDC says fully vaccinated people can now visit other fully vaccinated people indoors with no masks or social distancing. So the sooner everyone gets the vaccine, the sooner everyone can see friends and family safely. With each day that passes without getting vaccinated, there is more risk of catching COVID-19. Also, it will take longer to reach herd immunity.
Some people may think those who are vaccinated can’t spread the virus. This may not be true. Scientists still don’t yet know how well the vaccine stops people from spreading the virus. That means unvaccinated people could still be at risk. The virus spreads even when people don’t have symptoms.
Who should get vaccinated as soon as possible?
The vaccines are available to everyone 16 and older. But getting vaccinated is very important for those in the high-risk categories below. People in these groups have a higher risk of hospitalization or death.
- Have a chronic condition
- Are 65 or older
- Live in a home with more than one generation, like grandparents or grandchildren
- Are an essential worker with exposure to the public or are unable to social distance at work
For specific conditions or other concerns, a family doctor, pharmacist, or community health center may have more information.
Remember: the vaccine is free for everyone – regardless of immigration status or insurance.
What’s the easiest way to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
The easiest way to stay up to date in California is to sign up on the My Turn website. The My Turn site is available in 12 languages, including English, Tagalog, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer, and Punjabi. Vaccine appointments can be made through the site. If needed, it may be helpful to ask a family member, friend, or community leader to help set up an appointment on the My Turn site. Initial supplies are limited. So there might be fewer appointments available at this time. There will be more available in the coming months.
Those who don’t have access to a smartphone, the internet, or email can call the California COVID-19 Hotline at (833) 422-4255. Translation services are available in more than 250 languages. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A family doctor or healthcare provider can also help. They might be providing the vaccine. They might also know when the vaccine is available in certain areas.
Still have more questions?
Learn more at the websites below:
- Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
- Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF)
- Asian Health Coalition
- Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI)
- Asian Health Services: Health Care and Advocacy for Bay Area Asian Communities
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