Although Latinos make up about 10% of the population in North Carolina, as of June 23, 2020, they accounted for nearly half (46%) of all COVID-19 cases in the state. The pandemic has disproportionately affected this community. Will the same happen with the coronavirus vaccines?
At the moment, North Carolina’s Latino community is the group that has received the fewest COVID-19 vaccines.
Latinos account for only 2.4% of those who received the COVID-19 vaccine between December 14 and February 22.
Looking at the Latino population and the number of people who have received the vaccine at the county level, Latinos are underrepresented in 93 out of 100 counties in the state.
What is the reason for this? There is a combination of factors that could explain this problem. Below we will analyze four of them:
1) The Latino community is young
Although Latinos make up 10% of North Carolina’s population, Latinos ages 65 and older represent a smaller percentage of the state’s population.
The number of Latinos receiving vaccines is expected to increase as other age groups can get the vaccine.
2) The language barrier
While at the state level there are a couple of official Spanish-language websites about the vaccines, there is no widespread campaign or joint effort by the authorities to educate this community on the subject of vaccines.
There are no opportunities for Latinos in North Carolina to speak in Spanish with experts who can help clear up any doubts they have on this topic.
As was the case with the onset of the pandemic, there is a feeling that Latinos are not among the priorities of state authorities.
3) Persistent fear of authorities
For 4 years, the Trump administration’s actions damaged the trust that many people from this community-- especially undocumented immigrants-- have in the authorities.
Although we have a new administration in the White House, the damage has been done because that mistrust and fear still persist. Furthermore, given the lack of outreach by health authorities to neighborhoods, churches, and communities where Latinos are located; unfortunately that fear will remain dormant.
4) Large disinformation campaigns
From the start of the pandemic, through the election campaign and now the COVID-19 vaccine, Latinos have been vulnerable to widespread misinformation campaigns circulating on social media.
Every week, La Noticia receives messages from people asking if vaccine-related information they saw on social media is true.
We take these concerns very seriously, and we do our best to inform and educate Latinos in North Carolina with verified information about the vaccines.
We also strive, both in our printed editions and on our website www.lanoticia.com, to present you with the most up-to-date and reliable information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, we recognize that outlandish conspiracy theories have entrenched themselves in certain sectors of the Latino community, and these irresponsible messages will continue to circulate and mislead people.
The lack of opportunities for Latinos in North Carolina to speak with medical experts in Spanish about the vaccines and the absence of government informational campaigns on this topic widen the information gap; which is often filled with absurd ideas.
We call on state authorities to stop ignoring the Latino community; as it does not benefit anyone for this group to be left behind in vaccination efforts.
We also call on our community not to share information that is not verified or that does not come from a reliable source.