The share of Hispanic adults in the U.S. who say they have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine reached 73 percent in September, an increase of 12 percentage points from July, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
The increase was the fastest of any demographic group in the survey, and it put the reported vaccination rate for Hispanic adults slightly ahead of that of white adults.
Experts say that disparities in vaccination rates and access persist in may parts of the country. But they said that the strong increases among Hispanic and Latino adults in the national poll signaled that on-the-ground vaccination efforts focused on the group were paying off.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of President Biden’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force, said Tuesday at a White House news conference that the survey findings “represent much more than simply time passing — they tell the story of an all-of-society effort to get us to where we are today.”
Other surveys have also found high rates of vaccine uptake among Hispanic people. The Pew Research Center found in a survey of 10,000 adults released earlier in September that 76 percent of Hispanic adults were at least partially vaccinated.
“I think there have been some very concerted efforts,” said Dr. Bertha Hidalgo, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Hispanic people, she noted, “were one of the most highly affected groups during the earlier parts of the pandemic, when there were really high numbers of cases and also large numbers of deaths in Latinos.”
Hispanic people in the United States have been 2.3 times as likely as non-Hispanic white people to die of Covid-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A federal report found that from 2019 to 2020, Hispanic Americans experienced a drop in life expectancy of three years, compared with 2.9 years for Black Americans and 1.2 years for non-Hispanic white people.
Because they were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, it is possible that many Latinos have been driven by fearful memories to get the vaccine, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, a professor of medicine at the University of Southern California.
Hispanic people continue to lag behind in some places, like Los Angeles County, where about 62 percent of Latinos 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with about 72 percent for non-Hispanic white people, according to county data. In Colorado, Hispanic people make up 22 percent of the state’s overall population but only about 12 percent of the vaccinated population.
“We are seeing that Latinos are headed in a more positive direction,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “But it’s not everywhere, so that’s why we need to continue this effort.”
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations. On Sept. 27, a federal appeals panel reversed a decision that paused a mandate that teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
Dr. Hidalgo said that focused measures like walk-up vaccine clinics in church parking lots, making information available in Spanish and promoting vaccination on the widely watched Univision and Telemundo television networks had helped to persuade many initially hesitant Latinos to get shots.
Overcoming hesitancy fueled by misinformation continues to be a hurdle, she said, but support of vaccination by the Catholic Church, the predominant faith among Latinos, has helped.
Locally, community health workers known as promotores de salud who work in Spanish-speaking communities have had success easing anxieties about getting vaccinated, according to Kurt Organista, a professor of social welfare at U.C. Berkeley.
“They’re the ones who really go out with a personal contact to say, ‘Hey listen, you don’t need to worry about your immigration status or ability to pay,’” Dr. Organista said.
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