SAN ANTONIO – A distressing figure compiled by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District shows of the city’s 1.2 million Latinos, 60% of them are not vaccinated.
A leading Latino health researcher said much of the blame for the vaccine hesitancy is misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
“The Latino community is very into social media,” said Dr. Amelie Ramirez, director of Salud America!, a Latino health equity program at UT Health San Antonio.
Ramirez said the internet also is filled with unreliable websites.
“It looks believable because it looks like it might be coming from a government source or a trusted source,” Ramirez said. “But if you really look specifically, it is not.”
To try to help counter what they’re reading or hearing online, Salud America! has profiles of “heroes” who have are now convinced being vaccinated is the right decision.
Among them is a prevention specialist who trains public health workers with curriculum she’s written for the state’s Office of Border Public Health.
Still Norma Cavazos said she had serious doubts.
“Everything I read wasn’t answering the questions that I had, other than one that said that I shouldn’t take the vaccine because I have underlying medical conditions,” Cavazos said.
She later realized the information was false after speaking with her doctors.
“They said, Norma, you have a choice whether you want to live or you want to die,” Cavazos said. “If you do not take that vaccine, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up in ICU, and you’re very high risk also for dying.”
Cavazos said that was enough to convince her to get vaccinated.
Ramirez said to help counter false and misleading information, the messaging needs to be more consistent that the vaccines are safe.
“We have to trust that this works because it does work,” Ramirez said.
She said the message needs to come not only from community partners, but also those like Cavazos.
“It’s not just for you. It’s for your loved ones, your neighbors, your friends and your community,” Cavazos said.