COVID-19 is a serious threat that has deeply impacted Hispanic/Latino communities. 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.
Hispanic/Latino communities have had some of the highest rates of infection and death during the pandemic. The death rate for Hispanic/Latino Californians is 21% higher than the statewide average. In some areas, such as L.A. County, Hispanic/Latino residents are dying at a rate three times more than white residents.
Because of these concerns, many doctors, scientists, and health experts have created resources to help address questions. Here are a few of these experts working towards equity within Hispanic/Latino communities. Their work helps bring concerns Hispanic/Latino residents may have to the state and national level.
- Tomás Aragón, MD, Dr. PH, is the director of the California Department of Public Health and the State Public Health Officer. His work focuses on equity and antiracism in public health.
- Rita Carreón is Vice President for Health at UnidosUS. She is currently leading a team addressing the public health response to COVID-19. Her work centers on Hispanic civil rights and advocacy.
- Yanira Cruz is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). NHCOA holds town halls addressing vaccine equity. Dr. Cruz has also been featured in the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project’s work on vaccine education.
- Maria Lemus is the Executive Director of Visión y Compromiso. Visión y Compromiso supports promotores and community health workers. They help those in Hispanic/Latino communities get access to care. The Visión y Compromiso site has a section in Spanish with COVID-19 resources.
In addition to listening to these experts, it may be helpful to get more information from a family doctor, promotores, or a community-based organization, such as Visión y Compromiso.
Are the vaccines safe for everyone?
Some people may wonder if the vaccines are safe for everyone.
The National Hispanic Medical Association promotes the collective interests of Hispanic physicians and patients. Their mission is to educate Hispanic/Latino communities about the vaccines. This includes addressing concerns about safety. The campaign also encourages vaccination within Hispanic/Latino communities.
It has announced its #Vaccinate4All campaign. The campaign’s mission is to educate Hispanic/Latino communities about the vaccines
Diversity in clinical trials is important. This makes sure that the vaccines are safe for everyone. The clinical trials for all the approved vaccines showed that the vaccines were safe for all participants. In addition, one-fifth to nearly half of clinical trial participants were from Hispanic/Latino communities.
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.
These numbers are quite high for vaccines. To give some perspective, flu shots are typically only 40 to 60% effective.
There are resources and FAQs about vaccine effectiveness.
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.
For more details, vaccine FAQs are available as a resource.
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 5 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.
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 and Spanish. Vaccine appointments can be made through the site. Or, an alert will be sent when the vaccine becomes available. If needed, it may be helpful to ask a family member, friend, health navigator, or promotores 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 smart phone, the internet, or email can call the California COVID-19 Hotline at (833) 422-4255. The hotline offers services in English and Spanish. 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 more questions?
Learn more at the resources below: