Not Enough Latino Adults Receive Lifesaving Vaccinations
Jun 19, 2019

By Josh McCormack, Digital Content Curator at Salud America!

Immunizations can stop life threatening illnesses from developing in children and adults.

Yet, immunization rates for some vaccines are declining, and the diseases they prevent are on the rise due to widespread and far-reaching misinformation campaigns. Other reasons for lower vaccination rates in some communities include problems accessing vaccinations and lack of awareness of federal programs that help eligible families pay for vaccines, such as the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

The result? Government officials in some states have taken decisive action to more strictly enforce state vaccination mandates in all public school students.

Latino adults, who already face many health inequities, are one of the least likely racial groups to receive immunizations.

Vaccination Inequities Within Racial Demographics

The Latino community is one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S., and the state of their health impacts all Americans.

Across the board, Latino adults receive fewer immunizations than their white peers by significant margins, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

Their most recent surveys (with data from 2017 and 2018) show when compared to whites, Latino adults:

  • Ages 19 years and older were 13% less likely to receive an influenza shot during the last 12 months
  • Ages 65 and older were 18% less likely to have received a pneumonia shot in their lifetime
  • Ages 19 and older were 16% less likely to receive the vaccine needed to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap)
  • Ages 60 years and older were 19% less likely to get the vaccine against shingles (herpes zoster)

Latina women between 19 and 26 years old were also 19% less likely to receive an HPV vaccine.

“Despite years of work and millions of dollars invested in vaccine development and education, we have failed to significantly raise vaccination rates in adults, particularly in people of color with chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic. “Urgent action is needed to address the barriers in this susceptible population and avoid a public health crisis resulting from inadequate immunization.”

Young Latino children, however, reported similar rates of immunization against the following diseases as their white peers.

  • hepatitis A (HepA) and B (HepB)
  • influenza
  • measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP)
  • polio (IPV)
  • rotavirus (RV)
  • pneumococcal disease (PCV13)
  • chickenpox (varicella)
Vaccination Barriers for Latinos

The CDC reports there have been at least 1,044 cases of measles across 28 states in the U.S. this year so far.

That’s the highest number of cases in the U.S. since 1992.

Despite having no substantial evidence to back their claims, anti-vaccination rhetoric and disinformation has helped cause outbreaks of diseases like measles that were once thought to be eliminated from the U.S. Most of the current measles cases in the U.S. are a result of unvaccinated people traveling internationally and bringing the disease with them to the U.S. The disease then spreads when it reaches a community where groups of people are unvaccinated.

The Latino population faces a variety of health inequities in America — including lack of access to public services, fewer opportunities to procure housing, systemic bias, and rates of harmful chemical exposure.

According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Latino parents are willing to get their children vaccinated against HPV, but face obstacles in receiving information and care in this area. “First, the most common barrier reported in all focus groups was the lack of provider recommendation for the vaccine,” the study states. “Many participants expressed negative emotions (such as annoyance and anger) towards their provider for offering either insufficient or no information about the vaccine, or for not recommending the vaccine for their eligible child.”

That lack of provider recommendation, mixed with widespread vaccination misinformation and lack of vaccine access, could be some of the reasons behind alarmingly low immunization numbers among Latino adults.

Read these five vaccine truths, and judge for yourself.

Credible Spanish Language Vaccination Resources

To learn more about health concerns in the Latino community, visit Salud America! or follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Josh McCormack is a digital content curator at Salud America!, a national Latino, health equity media organization based at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio. Learn more about Josh here, and follow him on Twitter @_joshmccormack.

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