Experts weigh in on why Latinos might be hesitant to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Doctors aim to promote vaccine awareness

ORLANDO, Fla. – A survey conducted by the nonprofit COVID Collaborative indicated 34% of Latinos do not trust the vaccine and 40% are skeptical about its effectiveness.

“I see that, and I talk to my friends and everybody because everybody has concerns and questions,” Dr. Héctor Octaviani, a pediatrician at True Health in Sanford said about the concerns of his fellow Latinos. “Safety concerns like a lot of people have with any other vaccine. Like if it’s going to hurt, is it going to give me fever? I’m going to have an allergic reaction? I think it’s just our culture. We are more weary of things and we like to look more into the details of things.”

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So to help ease those worries and build confidence among Hispanic and Latino communities, Octaviani, a native of Puerto Rico, is voicing his experience with the first dose of the Moderna vaccine he received last week.

“I haven’t felt anything. That’s not the way most people react to it. Some people have a little bit of soreness, tenderness in the arm,” he said. “I share with them the data we have so far. Which of course, we don’t have any long-term data but so far there doesn’t seem to be any long-term side effects.”

According to the poll results released in November by the organization COVID Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on helping to combat the pandemic, about eight in 10 Latino adults think they are likely to experience side effects if vaccinated, and six in 10 believe those side effects would be somewhat severe.

The survey also showed Latinos would be less likely to get the vaccine if it were approved on an emergency-use basis without the usual review process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Everything that is approved for emergency use, there’s a reason for it. We need to immunize people. Traditionally diseases that are controlled by vaccination, you need to vaccinate 90% plus of the population to get the infection under control,” Octaviani said.

Dr. Raúl Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said socioeconomics play a big factor in preventing minority groups from being open to the vaccine.

He added health authorities also need to spread out to rural areas.

“Engage with leaders in those communities to be advocates for this vaccination,” Pino said. “I hope that we are going to see a higher acceptance as people see all of us getting vaccinated and no one is barking.”

Pino also said Orange County is in the process of translating information about the vaccine into other languages, but it’s a process that will take some time to release to the public.

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