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Many Unvaccinated Hispanic Americans Want The COVID-19 Shot, But Barriers Persist

New Mexico Department of Health

Many Hispanic Americans who aren't yet vaccinated against the coronavirus are eager to get the shot, according to the results of a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. 33 Percent of unvaccinated Hispanic respondents reported wanting to get vaccinated "as soon as possible," compared to about 16% of unvaccinated non-Hispanic white and Black respondents.

The survey found evidence of an information gap and other barriers that could be preventing Hispanic and Latino people from accessing the vaccine, and points to opportunities for our region's public health officials to address those barriers.

For example, more than half of Hispanic respondents who wanted the shot were concerned about out-of-pocket costs associated with the vaccine, even though it is free to all U.S. residents.

Gabriel Sanchez, director of the University of New Mexico's Center for Social Policy, said at least one Mountain West state is working to tackle that problem.

"When New Mexico's Department of Health heard from us that there were concerns with the perceived cost, as well as potentially having to be employed, they moved quickly and removed certain questions from the vaccine sign-up form," Sanchez. "They've been blasting out messaging letting folks know it's completely free, you don't have to have health insurance and you don't have to be employed."

But Sanchez said that requests for documentation can also present a barrier. And about half of Hispanic respondents to the survey reported being asked for a government-issued ID, like a driver's license or social security number, when getting the shot.

"Unfortunately, given the anti-immigration policy climate that Latinos have been living in over the last decade, there's a lot of fears about that," Sanchez said. "Will I lose access to public benefits? Will I face deportation, or will anyone in my family?"

Sanchez called removing documentation requirements "the most obvious and basic" step for increasing vaccination rates among Hispanic Americans.

Hispanic respondents were also more likely than those from other racial and ethnic groups to report concerns about missing work to get vaccinated and recovery from side effects - 64% cited that concern.

The Biden administration has called on employers to offer paid time off for workers to get vaccinated, and is offering a tax credit to offset the cost for those employing 500 people or fewer. Sanchez said employers should take advantage, and could go a step further by arranging opportunities for employees to get the shot at work.

"That requires some good collaboration with public and private sector efforts," Sanchez said. "And it's in the best economic interest of the private sector for folks to be able to get vaccinated."

According to the CDC , about 13% of those who have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose are Hispanic or Latino, though the group makes up 17% of the overall U.S. population.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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