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Communities of Color Confront Many Barriers to Vaccinations

In the Brownsville area of Brooklyn, Renee Muir, the director of development and community relations at the BMS Family Health Center, said she is developing a survey to gather evidence of the challenges affecting the community. Many residents have been deeply affected by the virus because of adverse health conditions and unemployment.

“Now you’re talking about people making decisions to spend $6 round trip, or eating, or paying a phone bill,” Ms. Muir said about residents traveling to get a vaccine.

On messaging platforms like WhatsApp and on social media, Latinos have been exposed to vaccine misinformation, said Dr. Valeria Daniela Lucio Cantos, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University. She has been working to help Latinos understand the vaccine and make appointments.

“There’s this emphasis on the risk and not enough on the benefits of the vaccines,” she said.

But while many older Americans struggle with the online system to register for a vaccine, sites only available in English presented an additional barrier, Dr. Cantos said.

“It feels like the system built for vaccine distribution did not have the Latinx community in mind,” she said, using the gender-neutral term for Latinos. She added that vaccine sites asking for Social Security numbers or insurance numbers made it difficult for undocumented immigrants to feel safe.

As vaccine supplies ramp up, Dr. Paulina Rebolledo, an assistant professor at Emory, hopes that officials begin to rethink their approach by mobilizing with organizations within communities of color that are trusted by residents and speak various languages.

“We, on the provider side or the health care side, can try to do more to reach patients and have them hear our voices,” she said. “It’s their overall health we’re trying to work on, and this is just an integral part of the movement.”


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