Many Unvaccinated Latinos in the U.S. Want the Shot, New Survey Finds

Many Unvaccinated Latinos in the U.S. Want the Shot, New Survey Finds

Originally Published in The New York Times

Jan Hoffman - May 13, 2021

Issues of access and fears of employment and immigration consequences have kept their Covid vaccination rates low, the findings suggest.

Anna Aguilar, a member of the Guatemalan Maya community in Lake Worth, Fla., received a Covid vaccine last month.
Credit...Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Latino adults in the United States have the lowest rates of Covid-19 vaccination, but among the unvaccinated they are the demographic group most willing to receive the Covid shots as soon as possible, a new survey shows.

The findings suggest that their depressed vaccination rate reflects in large measure misinformation about cost and access, as well as concerns about employment and immigration issues, according to the latest edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor.

Earlier polls had suggested that skepticism about the vaccine was widespread among Latinos, but the latest survey showed that hesitation is declining.

“With so many unvaccinated Hispanic adults eager to get a shot, there’s an opportunity to further close the gap in vaccination rates by addressing worries about costs and practical concerns such as time off work,” said Liz Hamel, a vice president of the foundation and director of public opinion and survey research.

Indeed, 33 percent of unvaccinated Latino adults responding to the survey said they wanted the shots as soon as possible, compared with 16 percent of the unvaccinated white adults and 17 percent of the unvaccinated Black adults.

Over all, nearly half of the Latino respondents, 47 percent, said they had gotten at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, compared with 60 percent of white adults and 51 percent of Black adults.

“The report shows that many Latinos have a high motivation to get vaccinated,” said Kurt Organista, a professor of social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. “They live in multigenerational households and cramped quarters. They want to protect their families.”

But, he added, “they work a lot — their work participation rates are higher than average Americans — so they don’t want to jeopardize their jobs by taking time off to get vaccinated.”

The survey showed that misunderstandings about cost and eligibility had also stymied them.

Even though the Covid vaccines are free in the United States, half of the unvaccinated Latino respondents worried that they would have to pay for the shot. Two-thirds said they feared they would have to miss work because of side effects.

About 18 percent of the Latino respondents said they did not yet have permanent residential status in the United States. Though the Biden administration and local public health officials have reiterated that the shots are available to anyone regardless of immigration status, more than half of this group reported being unsure about whether they were eligible to get the shots.

Nearly 40 percent of all the unvaccinated Latinos responding to the survey said they feared they would need to produce government-issued identification to qualify. And about a third said they were afraid that getting the shot would jeopardize either their immigration status or that of a family member.

Many health departments have been undertaking increasingly inventive measures to sign up Spanish speakers and to reassure them that their immigration status will not be endangered, said Erin Mann, the program manager for the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants, based at the University of Minnesota, which advises communities about best practices to reach underserved people. These include having language-specific drive-up lanes for testing and vaccination, holding events in the evenings and having health care workers phone individuals to sign them up.

The results of the poll were drawn from a nationally representative telephone survey, conducted from April 15 to April 29, of 2,097 adults, including 778 English- and Spanish-speaking Latinos.

The report on the findings also explored the disproportionately harsh impact of the pandemic on Latino families, which helped explain their willingness to be vaccinated. About 38 percent of Latino adults said that a relative or close friend had died from Covid-19, compared with 18 percent of white adults who reported having had similar experiences. Two-thirds of Latino adults said they feared that either they or a relative might get sick from the coronavirus. Financial fears related to the pandemic rippled through Latino families, too. Nearly half said they had been adversely affected economically, compared with about one-third of white respondents who said so.

While about a third of unvaccinated Latino adults were eager to get a shot as soon as possible, two-thirds were more reluctant, describing themselves as waiting and seeing (35 percent), only if required by work (13 percent) or definitely not (17 percent). But this group did seem amenable to incentive strategies, the report suggested. For them, improved access would be helpful.

More than half in this group who are overall reluctant and also employed said they would get the shots if their employers gave them paid time off to recover from side effects, a rate nearly three times that of white workers. (The Biden administration has urged companies to adopt the measure.) And 38 percent of this group would be inclined to be vaccinated if their employer arranged for the shots to be distributed at the work site. Nearly four in 10 said they would be more likely to get the shot if their employer provided a $200 incentive to do so.

Their responses also pointed to the importance of community-based access. Nearly half said they would be more likely to be vaccinated if the shots were available at sites where they normally go for health care. Dr. Organista said this finding showed the growing use of such clinics, which rely heavily on “promotores de salud”— community-based health workers, often volunteers, who provide assistance especially to Spanish-speaking residents.

“These clinics treat people irrespective of their ability to pay and immigration status,” he said. “People in the community know this. That’s a big opportunity and a solution for vaccination.”

Jan Hoffman writes about behavioral health and health law. Her wide-ranging subjects include opioids, vaping, tribes and adolescents.

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