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Among Dominican Americans, a high response to Covid-19 measures

It provides insight into how one of the largest and fastest-growing Latino subgroups "have responded to the directives in place to deal with the virus."

Emely Alba grew up in a Dominican American household in Paterson, New Jersey, where her mother always made sure that the house was clean and everyone in the family had access to necessary medications to stay healthy.

That didn't change during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Living with her father, a cancer survivor, also motivated Alba to get the Covid-19 vaccine and be extra cautious.

"I wanted to make sure that I was safe around them," Alba said. "I also wanted to be sure for myself. The vaccine, its job is to protect you from not going to the hospital. So, that's something that I was afraid of."

Alba is among the many Dominicans, one of the nation's largest and growing Latino communities, who have responded positively to Covid-19 measures, according to a recent report.

U.S.-born Dominicans and Dominican immigrants had a high rate of compliance with vaccination and other public health recommendations related to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study from The City College of New York’s CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and the CUNY School of Medicine published last Wednesday.

Researchers surveyed nearly 800 people of Dominican descent living in seven states: New York, New Jersey, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Connecticut. These states are home to 85 percent of the nation's Dominican population. The survey was conducted between Oct. 5 and Nov. 11.

Overall, the study found that most Dominicans have positive attitudes toward the immunization process and Covid-19 safety measures, as well as respect toward the recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A woman gets a Covid-19 vaccination in Paterson, N.J. Dominicans account for over a third of the city's Hispanic population. NBC 4

Over two-thirds of survey respondents (77. 3 percent) reported having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Additionally, 79 percent of Dominicans surveyed in the study reported “always or almost always” wearing masks in indoor public settings as recommended by the CDC.

Only 7 percent of respondents reported being hesitant about getting the vaccine, and an even smaller percentage of Dominicans surveyed (4.2 percent) said they were not going to get vaccinated because they didn't think it would help end the pandemic.

Of those who received the vaccine, 75 percent cited a desire to protect themselves from the virus as the primary reason motivating them to get vaccinated, according to the study. Social responsibility, or a desire to protect others, was cited by 21 percent as the main reason for getting vaccinated.

Nearly 3 percent of vaccinated respondents surveyed reported getting their Covid-19 shot because they felt pressured.

Dominicans are the fourth-largest Hispanic group in the U.S., growing by 33 percent in the last decade, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute.

In the heavily Latino and multicultural city of Paterson, where Alba lives, 100 percent of eligible adults have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. According to Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, about 107,000 adults in the city have gotten their shots. That number doesn't account for undocumented residents.

Paterson, the third-largest city in New Jersey, is 61 percent Latino. Dominicans account for 34 percent of Paterson's Hispanic population, according to census figures.

Like many people across the nation, Alba got infected with Covid-19 during the holidays as the omicron variant started to rapidly spread.

"I actually got it over Christmas," she said. "I didn't feel so sick, and I think it was because of the vaccine."

The 23-year-old is now looking at getting her booster dose since official guidance from the CDC advises people to get boosted as soon as they’re done isolating for at least five days after testing positive for Covid-19 and being fever-free for 24 hours.

"I'm going to get it because I work in the city and I would feel safer if I did," Alba said about getting boosted.

Dr. Ramona Hernández, director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute and an co-author of the study, stressed that their research "is integral to understanding the likelihood of compliance among a sizable minoritized group."

"It provides insight into how Dominicans, one of the largest and fastest growing Latino subgroups in the U.S., have responded to the directives in place to deal with the virus," Hernández said in a statement.

She said this comes "at a moment when the scientific community is determining how frequently people will need to vaccinate in the future to undermine Covid-19’s harmful effects."

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