COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the Latino community in the U.S., where major cities report Latinos as the group with most cases. Chances of being hospitalized are thrice that of a White person, while dying can be twice more likely. It is therefore necessary to protect the Latino community through a tangible solution: access to vaccination. This will not only have an impact in the Latino community, but a public health impact, given that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. are Latinos. However, vaccination in the Latino community, my community, has multiple barriers.
As a Latino pediatrician, I understand the conundrum of being a minority. Even though Latinos represent nearly 20% of the population in the U.S., fewer than 6% of physicians in the country are Latinos. This makes me feel identified and urges me to help the Latino community in any way possible.
Firstly, even though there is some information about vaccines in Spanish and Portuguese, this information does not always reach the community. We can help disseminate this information. I recommend everyone in the community help disseminate information in Spanish and Portuguese in any form they can, including broadcast media, print media, social media and even word-of-mouth.
Secondly, we should have information about the current vaccines in the U.S., but also acknowledge that other vaccines are being used elsewhere. Vaccine supply in Latin America (Sinopharm, Sputnik, Sinovac) is quite varied compared to the U.S. (mostly Pfizer, Moderna, and most recently Johnson & Johnson). This creates further confusion about which vaccines people will get and how they work, as most of the information is word-of-mouth and each Latin American country has acquired different vaccines. Additionally, there is currently political turmoil in multiple countries (like Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil) where multiple politicians have received vaccines in a VIP fashion, creating a further sense of mistrust. This is currently known as the #VacunaGate.
Thirdly, physicians and other health care providers need to be aware of where vaccination is occurring. We can help Latino families navigate this process by helping them find a place to vaccinate that is already familiar, such as a church or a market, thus gaining their trust.
Many Latino families are uninsured and need to pay out-of-pocket, which can create an insurmountable financial risk. It is important for them, and for everyone, to know that the COVID-19 vaccine is free of any cost despite insurance status.
Although the COVID-19 vaccination is the steepest mountain to climb, it is a challenge we can overcome as a united society. It is through vaccination that we will end this pandemic, for everyone.