Medical Mistrust Fuels Vaccine Hesitancy Among Hispanics

TUESDAY, Oct. 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Misinformation and medical mistrust are major drivers of vaccine hesitancy among U.S. Hispanics, new research shows.

The researchers also found that protecting other family members is an important factor in convincing Hispanics to get vaccinated.

The small study included 22 Hispanic mothers in Oregon and 24 of their children who were in grades 9 to 12. At the time of the study, Hispanics accounted for 27% of coronavirus infections in Oregon, even though they made up only about 13% of the state's population.

A major concern among the study participants was the myth that COVID-19 vaccination causes sterility, the Oregon State University researchers found.

That fear has a historical basis due to previous forced sterilization programs by the U.S. government, according to Jonathan Garcia, an associate professor in the university's College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

That history has to be acknowledged by medical providers to help patients overcome their fears and get vaccinated, he explained.

"We can't relay dry facts without addressing the history of trauma and discrimination that lead people to mistrust medical systems," Garcia said in a university news release. "The system is at fault for vaccine hesitancy. It's not about being stubborn, or people not knowing enough; it's that the system hasn't addressed these historical traumas sufficiently and hasn't engaged sufficiently with their cultures."

The researchers also found a need for better communication about the country's COVID-19 vaccine rollout. When health officials suggested that Hispanics be first to get vaccinated due to risk factors such as workplace exposure and underlying health conditions, some people felt they were being used as "guinea pigs," according to the study published Oct. 1 in the journal Health Education and Behavior.

The investigators also discovered that the idea of getting vaccinated to protect other family members appealed to the study participants. Many also viewed vaccination as a path back to full employment.

Teen participants often had to dispel vaccination conspiracy theories their parents saw on social media and keep their parents updated on the latest news, the study showed.

"The usefulness of a study like this is that it allows us to understand the complexities that arise from lived experience," Garcia said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 vaccines.

SOURCE: Oregon State University, news release, Oct. 1, 2021

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