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Some Latino groups more wary of Covid vaccine, so messaging needs to be tailored, experts say

Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans, the two largest Latino groups in the U.S., show more vaccine hesitancy, with most citing concerns over potential negative long-term effects.
A senior citizen receives a Covid-19 vaccination at the Kedren Community Health Center on Jan. 25, 2021, in Los Angeles.Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

Experts are urging Biden administration officials to better understand the source behind Covid-19 vaccine skepticism across different Latino communities to improve vaccine rollout strategies nationwide.

Surveys have found an "element of fear and mistrust" about the vaccine, but such fears manifest differently across different Latino subgroups, according to researchers Gabriel Sanchez and Juan Peña in a Brookings Institution analysis published Monday.

At least 28 percent of all Latinos surveyed by the Latino advocacy nonprofit UnidosUS in October reported that they were unlikely to get vaccinated for Covid-19. Latinos of Puerto Rican and Mexican origins were the most likely to report they would not get vaccinated, overwhelmingly citing concerns over potential negative long-term health effects and side effects from the vaccine, according to disaggregated data from the UnidosUS survey.

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"Given that Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans are the two largest national origin groups among Latinos, with roughly 41 million Latinos from these groups living in the United States, this is a significant concern for the ability the reach the goal of herd immunity through high rates of vaccine uptake across the population," Sanchez and Peña said.

Over a third of all Latinas surveyed by UnidosUS stated they will likely not get vaccinated, compared to 22 percent of Latino men.

"This gender gap in the likelihood of vaccination identifies how important it will be to conduct more in-depth research with the Latino population and to better understand what is driving fear and concerns about the vaccine to help devise solutions," Sanchez and Peña said.

While President Joe Biden "has taken an important first step" by establishing a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services, Sanchez and Peña said more needs to be done in order to improve trust in the vaccine among Latinos.

The researchers are calling for officials to commission an in-depth study that identifies the most effective messaging strategies for different Latino subgroups. They also urge an aggressive use of fact-based information to counter the overwhelming amount of bilingual vaccine disinformation Latinos have been exposed to over the past months.

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A combination of "a long and recent history of medical malpractice" and structural racism by the federal government against communities of color have contributed to the skepticism about the vaccine, the researchers said. They also cited the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump administration as fueling more fears, especially among immigrant and mixed-status families.

Education of Latinos about the vaccine is paramount, however, considering that when compared to non-Hispanic whites, Latinos are nearly twice as likely to get Covid, more than four times likely to be hospitalized for coronavirus and nearly three times more likely to die from it, the study's authors state.

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