OKEECHOBEE — As of March 7, 2021, 2,170 Okeechobee residents have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccination, and 3,229 have completed the series for a total of 5,399 vaccinated.
The CDC website claims approximately 65.4% of vaccinations in this country were administered to white/non-Hispanics; 8.5% to Hispanics, 1.7% to American Indians/Alaskan natives, 4.7 % to Asians, 7% to black/non-Hispanics; 0.3% to Pacific Islanders; 12.4% to multiple/other/non-Hispanics.
In the state of Florida, the vaccination rate for Hispanics is 17% which is higher than the country’s average of only 8.5% but still not on par with the percent of total Hispanic population in Florida. Hispanics make up 27% of the population in Florida.
Are Hispanics less likely to get vaccinated? If so, why?
Osiel Luviano, business owner and lifelong resident of Okeechobee said he believes religion plays some part in their reluctance to be vaccinated and culture may play a part as well.
“Really though,” he said, “I have not seen a lot of effort made to encourage them to get vaccinated. There is a lack of information out there. If I was running the health department, I would put an ad on Radio Fiesta. I would get my friend Paco to tell them it is safe, and they do not need to worry about it. ” He said he would probably hit the flea markets as well. “Maybe have somebody stand at the entrance with a mask on passing out flyers, in Spanish obviously, so people can get educated about it.” He said he has not heard any ads at all promoting the vaccination for COVID on the Spanish radio station or anywhere else directed toward the Hispanic population.
Luviano does not think people are worried about immigration officials. He has not heard any talk of that, and said if it were a reason, he thinks he would have heard, since he is deeply involved in the Hispanic community.
He has heard talk from Catholics who are concerned about the safety and the morality of the vaccine. (Vaccine development and production over the last several decades has sometimes relied upon some cell lines that were originally developed from cells obtained from aborted fetuses. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not dependent on these cell lines. They were developed using technology relying on ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the virus itself. The Vatican has encouraged Catholics to be vaccinated and stated that it is morally acceptable for Catholics to take these vaccines against the COVID-19 virus.)
Luviano believes if someone from the health department would speak to the priest, he could talk to the people and reassure them by answering their questions. “We need the leaders to help convince people it is fine.”
The Hispanic community is also skeptical, he said. “It’s a culture thing. They see stories online, Facebook and things, about how somebody got sick after a shot.”
If he was in charge of getting the word out to the Hispanic community, he would hit the flea market, the Hispanic stores, the churches and the radio station. “I would reach out to the high school migrant program and get the kids educated so they can tell their parents and grandparents. The migrant advocate, Flerida Algarin, could pass out flyers to her students so they could take them home. There are Hispanic advocates at the middle schools too.”
“The flyers should emphasize that they do not have to worry. The vaccine is safe. If you get the word out, eventually people will come around.”