A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found Hispanic vaccination rates were only 42% in Idaho and Colorado: tying for the second lowest rate in the country, above only South Dakota.
This doesn’t surprise Sam Byrd, director of the Center for Community and Justice in Idaho.
He said hesitancy and access have long been challenges when vaccinating his community. Even in the 60s, he said “if it hadn’t been for the schools requiring (vaccinations), I’m pretty sure our parents wouldn’t do it … so it’s not new.”
But Byrd said monetary incentives have worked to increase vaccinations in Idaho, and his organization will continue its efforts.
“Staff have been out to dairies. We’ve been out, you know. We’re mobile. We’re not going to wait. We go to where they are, knowing that that level of hesitancy exists,” he said.
There are also continued national efforts through groups like Hispanic Access Foundation, which is working with faith leaders in places like Las Vegas and Denver. They want to provide easy access to both vaccines and vaccine information. That means providing that information in both Spanish and English, so people don’t have to rely on social media to make their own health decisions.
“A lot of first and second-generation Latinos get our information off of social media, and not reputable social media sites,” said David Armijo, chief of programs for the foundation. “They’re trusting that, ‘Oh, my cousin posted it, my uncle posted it, it must be true.’”
Armijo added that some of the vaccine hesitancy comes from a distrust of their previous governments.
“A lot of immigrants that come to our country, come to our country because of a mistrust in their government. So just because they arrive here and they’re here for the American dream doesn’t mean they’re going to trust the government. And when the government is making mandates, it gets scary,” he said.
Armijo said that while mask mandates disappear and national news turns to international turmoil in Ukraine, people are still being infected by, and dying from, COVID-19.
“There’s so much other news media going on that this has kind of fallen to the background, but it doesn’t mean that it’s gone. It just means we’re not talking about it,” he said.
The national rate for Hispanic vaccinations is 64%, slightly higher than for whites.
Other Hispanic vaccination rates that the Kaiser Family Foundation listed in the Mountain West include: 66% in New Mexico, 61% in Utah, and 59% in Nevada. Wyoming and Montana were not included in the analysis.
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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