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As the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, several states are reporting the demographic makeup of their vaccine distribution numbers.
Initially, Latinos made up a very low percentage of those getting a vaccine, despite being disproportionately hurt by COVID-19.
However, in between July and September 2021, the data shows that more and more Latinos are getting vaccinated, even surpassed the number for Black and white people, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Still, disparities for Latinos persist in different states. Differences in education level, political affiliation, and health insurance also add to the vaccine gap.
Let’s take a look at the data.
UPDATE 9/29/21: Updated numbers for states, new data from Kaiser Family Foundation on national Latino vaccination.
COVID-19 Vaccination for Latinos Nationally
As of Sept. 29, 2021, 73% of Latino adults have been vaccinated with at least one shot, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This is slightly higher than white adults (71%) and Black adults (70%).
Latinos were one of the groups that saw the highest increase since July 2021, up 12 percentage points.
These numbers suggest that the U.S. is getting closer to eliminating the racial gap in vaccination.
“While these numbers differ slightly, the weight of these and other recent studies—it’s confirmation we’ve made important progress in increasing vaccination rates and in decreasing vaccination inequities,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of the White House’s COVID-19 equity task force, according to Newsweek.
However, in some states, the gap in vaccination rate for Latinos continues.
COVID-19 Vaccination for Latinos by State
As of Sept. 29, 2021, 44 out of 50 states report a racial/ethnic breakdown of their COVID-19 vaccine distribution numbers that specify Hispanics/Latinos.
Many of these states show that Latinos make up a smaller portion of those getting vaccinated compared to their population proportion in the state.
Some states, like Maine and Vermont, have almost fully vaccinated their Latino populations, but they have fewer Latinos than other states. Only a few states with large Latino populations, like New Mexico and New Jersey, are among the top states to fully vaccinated their citizens.
In other states with high Latino populations, like Texas, California, and Florida, Latinos make up less than a third of those vaccinated.
0.4% of vaccinated people are Latino.
4.2% of South Dakota’s population is Latino.
1.6% of vaccinated people are Latino.
1.6% of Maine’s population is Latino.
3% of vaccinated people are Latino.
3% of Mississippi’s population is Latino.
3.1% of vaccinated people are Latino.
4% of New Hampshire’s population is Latino.
4.6% of vaccinated people are Latino.
5.6% of Alaska’s population is Latino.
4.9% of vaccinated people are Latino.
6% of South Carolina’s population is Latino.
4.9% of vaccinated people are Latino.
5% of Minnesota’s population is Latino.
5.5% of vaccinated people are Latino.
5.3% of Louisiana’s population is Latino.
6% of vaccinated people are Latino.
6.5% of Indiana’s population is Latino.
7.2% of vaccinated people are Latino.
7% of Arkansas’ population is Latino.
9% of vaccinated people are Latino.
10% of North Carolina’s population is Latino.
9.1% of vaccinated people are Latino.
12% of Oregon’s population is Latino.
9.5% of vaccinated people are Latino.
9% of Maryland’s population is Latino.
9.5% of vaccinated people are Latino.
11% of Kansas’ population is Latino.
10% of vaccinated people are Latino.
13% of Washington’s population is Latino.
11% of vaccinated people are Latino.
12% of Idaho’s population is Latino.
11.7% of vaccinated people are Latino.
21% of Colorado’s population is Latino.
14.3% of vaccinated people are Latino.
17.5% of Illinois’ population is Latino.
17% of vaccinated people are Latino.
20.4% of New Jersey’s population is Latino.
17.3% of vaccinated people are Latino.
31.7% of Arizona’s population is Latino.
21.1% of vaccinated people are Latino.
19% of New York’s population is Latino.
26.7% of vaccinated people are Latino.
29.2% of Nevada’s population is Latino.
29.7% of vaccinated people are Latino.
39% of California’s population is Latino.
22% of vaccinated people are Latino.
27% of Florida’s population is Latino.
Some states are reporting data that reflects what percentage of the Latino population in that state has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The following are states that release this data:
37.9% of Latinos in Alabama have received at least one dose.
5.4% of Latinos in Tennessee have received at least one dose.
32.5% of Latinos in Texas have received at least one dose.
34% of Latinos in Iowa have received at least one dose.
43.6% of Latinos in Nebraska have received at least one dose.
45.5% of Latinos in Georgia have received at least one dose.
46.9% of Latinos in Wisconsin have received at least one dose.
45.6% of Latinos in Ohio have received at least one dose.
50.7% of Latinos in North Dakota have received at least one dose.
51.6% of Latinos in Michigan have received at least one dose.
51.9% of Latinos in Pennsylvania have received at least one dose.
53.8% of Latinos in Delaware have received at least one dose.
56.8% of Latinos in Utah have received at least one dose.
56.7% of Latinos in Missouri have received at least one dose.
57% of Latinos in Massachusetts have received at least one dose.
58.5% of Latinos in Connecticut have received at least one dose.
59.3% of Latinos in New Mexico have received at least one dose.
60% of Latinos in Rhode Island have received at least one dose.
76.9% of Latinos in Virginia have received at least one dose.
95% of Latinos in Vermont have received at least one dose.
Source: Data from state health department and U.S. Census websites as of Sept. 29, 2021.
Why Are Latinos Getting Vaccinated Less?
So why would they make up such a small amount of people getting vaccinated in some states?
Lack of access and vaccine confidence 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.”
In New York City, Latinos in hard-hit areas make up a small percentage of those vaccinated.
“Latinos and Blacks represent 16% and 11% respectively of those fully vaccinated in New York City, as compared to 43% of Whites. If you drill down by zip code on the City’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, almost half of the 75 priority zip codes feature abnormally low vaccination rates, with less than 4% fully vaccinated. The estimated 1.6 million people who live in these hard-hit areas aren’t getting what they deserve,” according to New York Daily News.
Other barriers to vaccine access in Latino communities include limited internet access and a lack of bilingual vaccine information.
“Our folks don’t have emails, they don’t have computers at home,” said James Rudyk, executive director of the Northwest Side Housing Center in Chicago, which runs vaccine clinics in Belmont Cragin, a largely Hispanic neighborhood, according to The New York Times. “They have smartphones, but they are not navigating registration systems that want you to fill out pages and pages of information.”
Some clinics serving Latino communities have had to take matters into their own hands.
Gilda Pedraza, the executive director of the Latino Community Fund in Atlanta, helped organized a vaccine clinic for older Latinos before the Georgia state health department posted vaccine information in Spanish, according to The New York Times.
“People didn’t even know that there was a vaccine when we talked to them,” Pedraza said, according to The New York Times.
Lack of vaccine confidence might be another major reason why Latinos are falling behind in vaccination count.
In New York City, Latinos make up 15% of vaccinations despite making up 29% of the city’s population. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says hesitancy is part of the problem.
“Clearly, we do see a profound disparity that needs to be addressed aggressively and creatively,” de Blasio said in a conference call, according to WBOC. “We’ve got a profound problem of distrust and hesitancy, particularly in communities of color.”
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.
“Now, Latinos lag behind in vaccination rates, driven in part by Spanish-language disinformation deliberately targeting us on Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and more. The conspiracy forces that tried to depress Latino voter turnout with lies about the election now appear to be using internet platforms to tell Latinos the vaccine contains a microchip, alters DNA or causes stillbirths. The misinformation then spreads through word of mouth,” said author Jean Guerrero, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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.
According to the NIH’s Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities, some ways to build community trust during the pandemic include invest in long-term relationships with community partners, listen to concerns and learn community insights, acknowledge research challenges and mistakes, and be transparent.
A new study by NIMHD highlights how addressing misinformation and distrust through academic-community partnerships and creating community-engaged behavioral interventions can effectively address vaccine hesitancy and help promote equitable access to Latinos and other people of color.
The Biden administration also wants to help bring more vaccines to ethnic/racial minorities through the expansion of the federal COVID-19 vaccine program to community health centers across the country.
“Increasing access to vaccines among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic is critical. By adding to the number of community health centers participating in this program, we will help make sure shots are getting to those who need them most,” Becerra said, according to a press release. “The medical professionals at these local health centers already have trusted relationships in these communities, and this expansion will ensure every community health center in the country can be a part of our vaccination effort.”
California is Allocating Vaccines to Latinos
One state that is taking action to address equity in vaccine distribution is California.
Governor Gavin Newsom said the state will be begin sending 40% of vaccines to hard hit, predominately Latino neighborhoods, as they have been impacted by COVID-19 the most, according to AP News.
Not only is this plan meant to vaccinate those at highest risk, but also help the state with opening the economy faster.
“It is a race against the variants. It’s a race against exhaustion. It’s a race to safely, thoughtfully open our economy, mindful that it has to be an economy that doesn’t leave people behind, that is truly inclusive,” Newsom said, according to AP News.
This new distribution approach will be helpful for Latinos who have limited access to vaccines, says Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities.
“They are living day-to-day, so they have to go and work in order to survive and they don’t have the luxury to take half a day to go where the vaccine sites are,” said Aguilar-Gaxiola, according to AP News.
Some question the ethics of prioritizing vaccination by race rather than risk factors.
“We always say you should do this by risk,” said Georges Benjamin, APHA Executive Director, according to The Nation’s Health. “Because when you do it by race, you are profiling people, you are stigmatizing them based on race. You are saying, ‘Black people are much more likely to get the disease because they are Black, not because they have situations in which they are much more at risk.’”
In San Diego, COVID-19 hurt the Latino community immensely. While vaccinations started off slowly, they’re beginning to pick up through help of community organizations.
“It took a lot of advocacy, education and a lot of outreach,” said Nancy Maldonado, President and CEO of the Chicano Federation, according to CBS. “We’re seeing those numbers start to come up and we’re seeing Latinos are getting vaccinated, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
They’ve seen vaccine numbers go up with the help of promotoras, healthcare professionals, and community organizers that have helped distribute bilingual vaccine information and combat myths and misinformation.
In fact, across the country, community health centers have helped make the vaccine more accessible to communities of color.
“People of color represent greater shares of vaccinations at health centers compared to their shares of vaccinations nationally based on data reported by the CDC, especially for Hispanic people. To date, 34% of total first doses administered at health centers have gone to Hispanic people, over two times higher than their share of people who have received one or more doses nationally (14%),” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
How Can We Help Latinos During COVID-19?
One available resource is the Vaccine Equity Toolkit released by Kaiser Permanente. The toolkit offers resources for state and local governments as well as health care organizations to ensure everyone has equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
We can also help by sharing accurate information on how to protect one another from COVID-19.
To help move Latinos from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine confidence, Salud America! is uplifting the stories of real Latinos who overcame misinformation, got the vaccine, reconnected with family, and are helping end the pandemic.
- Rosa Herrera read on Facebook that the vaccine would inject her with a microchip. She learned that was a myth. See exactly what changed her heart and pushed her to get the vaccine! (en español)
- Jesus Larralde was nervous about the vaccine’s possible side effects. His wife got the vaccine and was fine. See exactly what changed his heart and pushed him to get the vaccine! (en español)
- Helen Cordova thought the vaccine was rushed. But she did her research and learned the vaccine’s safety, and volunteered to be the first person in California to get the vaccine! See exactly what changed her heart! (en español)