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Hispanic, Latinx residents of N.J. say they need more COVID vaccine info – especially in Spanish – NJ.com

Posted: February 14, 2021 at 4:54 pm

When Judith Sanchez learned she and her family members could soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, she asked them if theyd be interested in signing up.

Not yet, they said, and neither is she.

Usually thats the response that I get: that they want to wait a little bit more, said Sanchez, 38, of Passaic City, and is originally from the Dominican Republic. I think most people like myself worry about the side effects and that we dont know enough.

As New Jersey struggles to roll out the coronavirus vaccine, Latinx and Hispanic residents who are disproportionately affected by the virus have doubts about taking it, many saying theres not enough information about its effects and a sore lack of outreach to their communities.

Since March, there have been 656,904 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Jersey and 20,083 confirmed fatalities from the virus, according to the states COVID-19 dashboard as of Thursday. More than 1.19 million doses of the vaccination had been administered in the state.

But the reality for communities of color during the pandemic has been dire, with national and state statistics showing that Black and Hispanic people in the United States and New Jersey have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus.

In New Jersey, Hispanic people account for nearly 26% of the states coronavirus cases, despite making up 18% of the states total population, according to the states COVID-19 dashboard. And 19%, or more than 3,700, of the states more than 20,000 deaths from the virus have been Hispanic people, according to state data.

The states most diverse communities have been barraged by COVID-19, with a NJ Advance Media analysis showing that towns with the greatest increase of deaths in 2020 often included those with the highest Hispanic populations.

And as of February 11, of the 1,190,446 vaccination doses administered in the state, only 5% were to Hispanic or Latinx people, according to state COVID-19 data.

As these communities endure the onslaught of the pandemic, national and state studies also show that there is a widespread skepticism of the COVID-19 vaccine among Hispanic and Latinx people, caused by a lack of outreach geared toward them and information available on the long-term side effects.

Fact sheet about the COVID-19 vaccine in Spanish.Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

According to a national poll on healthy aging conducted by the University of Michigan, 86% of Latinx people said they would not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

The skepticism comes from an absence of outreach to Latinx and Hispanic communities, in New Jersey and across the country, said Debora LaTorre, president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

Youre introducing a vaccine thats never been done before, said LaTorre, who is Mexican American. Some of them would be skeptical. Especially some of our older generation, which is the prime population being affected by COVID. Education is one of the biggest challenges we as nurses face.

Much of the skepticism comes from cultural traditions in Latinx and Hispanic communities to turn to holistic medicine, said LaTorre. Many others, including young Latinx and Hispanic residents, are worried about potential side effects of the vaccine and whether any resulting illness will take them out of the work force, she said.

Its the whole fear of I have to provide for my family, said LaTorre. And at this time I cant afford to get sick.

According to a survey published in October by Unidos US, 76% said they were concerned that the vaccine would make them sick or have bad side effects. And 79% said they were concerned that there wasnt enough information about the long-term effects.

The fears are spurred by the fact that information exists, but has yet to reach worried Hispanic and Latinx residents, said Gina Miranda-Diaz, a New Jersey State Licensed Health Officer and past president of the the New Jersey chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

They are fearful and they are not very knowledgeable about the science, she said. What I hear most often is people saying Its too fast. It seems like it was too rushed. How do they know that this is working?

The key to allaying those fears is to dispel misinformation and health myths, including that the vaccine contains active COVID-19 and that the vaccine was formulated and tested in just a few short months, said Miranda-Diaz.

While most of the nurses in the association do their best to educate Latinx and Hispanic patients on the vaccine, there is also a desperate need for more widespread educational resources for the community, said LaTorre.

But the lack of education and answers on a months-old vaccine for those who speak Spanish has not been put in place, said Sanchez, whose hometown of Passaic City saw a 212% increase in deaths last year.

I think we dont have enough info out as to what this vaccine is, said Sanchez, who does not currently plan to make an appointment. We often hear in the news about the vaccinations, but we dont hear enough about what it does. At least not on Latinx news channels. Ive only heard about it a little bit in the English speaking channels, not Univision or Telemundo.

Doubts about the vaccine are present even in those who plan to get it. Some, like Karina Silvotti, who is from Uruguay and lives in Elizabeth, have questions about the vaccines effects, but still plan to get vaccinated to protect themselves.

Its not getting rid of all risk, but its a way of protecting yourself, Silvotti said in Spanish. There are so many people that dont want it because they dont know about it. They hear it has side effects or that its not good.

Much like LaTorre, Miranda-Diaz emphasized education as the crucial weapon in the fight to get more Hispanic and Latinx residents vaccinated. As a veteran nurse practitioner, Miranda-Diaz has fielded questions about the uncertainties of how the COVID-19 vaccine works on the body and potential effects.

Listen to the scientists, said Miranda-Diaz. Avoid social media and the disinformation. If you get information, get clarity. Find out the truth. Find out if this is real or if its fake. Get your information from reliable sources. And Facebook and Instagram are not reliable sources.

Along with getting vaccinated themselves, members of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses in New Jersey try to connect with people in their own towns to educate and inform them about the potential effects of the vaccine and where and how to get registered.

The association was working with the Department of Health to provide educational resources for Hispanic and Latinx residents in their own towns, said LaTorre. Targeting residents in their own communities helps many Hispanic and Latinx people who often tell nurses they dont have time to seek resources or that say providing for their family is their priority, not vaccination.

The Department of Health is also hosting a virtual public conversation with Latinx medical professionals, including Miranda-Diaz on Monday. A version of the panel in Spanish is also being planned, LaTorre and Miranda-Diaz both confirmed.

The push to get Latinx and Hispanic residents vaccinated has become personal for Hispanic nurses and medical professionals, who have seen countless friends and family die from the coronavirus, said LaTorre.

Were seeing our communities dying because of the virus, she said. And thats something we dont want to continue. We want to advocate for the vaccine and make sure that our communities are educated so they can make a good, sound decision and hopefully get this vaccine so they can be protected.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a voluntary subscription.

Rodrigo Torrejon may be reached at rtorrejon@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @rodrigotorrejon.

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Hispanic, Latinx residents of N.J. say they need more COVID vaccine info - especially in Spanish - NJ.com

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