Cristina Vasquez receives a COVID-19 vaccine from physician assistant’s Alyssa Hernandez in Vernon. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: The reasoning behind Latino COVID vaccination mistrust

Latinos accost for a bulk of COVID-19 deaths and are at the highest risk, with only 37% reporting they would receive the shot, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Yet, we are one of the most hesitant groups to be vaccinated.

But why? 

From family members to frontline workers, Latinos I know are afraid of ending up with more medical problems than if they got the virus in any of its new strains. 

Stories of “what if I grow a third leg?” or “what if it breaks me out in rashes and kills me?” are not unfamiliar. 

According to the CDC, individuals that are fully vaccinated can safely mingle in small groups indoors and unmasked. Even for small 16th birthday gatherings. But still, the idea of the vaccine is unappetizing to most Latinos. 

A poignant reason is the lack of education or the prevalence of miseducation. Many Latinos have been fed misconceptions and don’t fully understand what composes the shot and its beneficial outcomes. 

In my opinion, we are afraid of what we don’t know. 

Dr. Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president said that Latinos and Black peoples’ “chances of being hospitalized and dying is considerably greater than the general population, so we have a responsibility to go into the community and to get information to them.” 

With a background of medical racism and discrimination, a number of Latinos are not quick to trust a white man on television saying the best thing to do is receive this newly developed vaccine. 

This ties into the needed emphasis on representation. Seeing your face in the medical field, government positions, etc. are crucial. It shows younger people they matter and are capable. And it presents a strong sense of trust. That someone that looks like you and grew up similarly would not mislead you. 

I believe if there were multiple BIPOC viral doctors along with Dr. Fauci, more Brown and Black individuals would be willing to get a shot. 

Additionally, medical racism in the Latino community is a large issue. This ranges from extraordinarily expensive healthcare, puzzling terminology to the forced sterilization of Latina women. 

Following the tightening of legal immigration routes from the Trump administration, Latinos were left skeptical and fearful of dealing with authorities, even doctors. It’s common to hear of people being afraid their citizenship status would be spotlighted at vaccination centers and at risk of deportation.

According to a 2018 article in Nature Human Behavior by anthropologist Heidi Larson, people who do not trust the government are more likely to extend their distrust of the government to that of vaccines and the people and systems that support them.

It is difficult to trust a system that has betrayed our community time and time again. 

But it’s important to trust science. And understand these vaccines have been given the green light by the FDA and gone through the proper safety measures.  

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations are made of mRNA — a technology that gives genetic code to the cells. It puts a spike protein from the surface of SARS-CoV-2  that causes the virus.

This creates an immune response in the body. The antibodies are made of proteins in your immune system that fights off the virus. When your body makes that immunity, the spike protein, and the mRNA are gone while the antibodies stay.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccination uses a different approach with the spike protein that will still trigger an immune response.

Any potential side effects may occur like they would with any given vaccine. 

According to the L.A. Times, side effects are a response to the vigorous creation of antibodies in your immune system. This is why second-dose symptoms may seem more prevalent. If any side effects like a sore arm occur, it just means the vaccine is working. 

The side effects of the COVID vaccines are fairly incomparable to the potential symptoms of the coronavirus. 

When we have the opportunity to become vaccinated, we have to take it. For our personal health and the health of those around us.

By educating our friends and family on this vaccine, without misconceptions, we can show them vaccinations are vital to keeping our community safe. 

After all, as Latinos, the family is the backbone of our principles.