The Hispanic Covid-19 Misinformation Gap
A quick look at our infographic this month and you cannot help but come to one conclusion – Hispanics are vaccinating for COVID-19 at an alarmingly low rate relative to the US population in general. Ironically, there is research out there that Hispanics want to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Almost 40% of Latinos report a family member or close friend who has died from the coronavirus. This is more than reported by Black-Americans (34%) and over twice that reported by White-Americans (18%).
Vaccine urgency for Hispanics should be visceral. Especially given that the Hispanic community represented almost half of all essential workers in the country during the worst of the pandemic in 2020. So, what is driving the gap between reality and intention? Let us break it down to two root explanations:
Social Media Drivers
Social media companies are much less likely to flag COVID-19 misinformation in Spanish including many debunked claims of vaccine falsehoods. It is no longer a secret that all misinformation paths lead back to just a dozen sources. While none of these originate in Spanish, Facebook and WhatsApp have become super-spreaders of the misinformation gap when it comes to in-language users of these social media platforms. The gap amplifies with errors in translation, misinterpretations of slang and poor fact checking.
Exactly what are in-language social media users exposed to? Many of the rampant conspiracy theories will sound familiar – tracking microchips, altered DNA agents, satanic rituals, cancer, faith that “God will cure me,” and a general mistrust of the medical establishment.
Other falsehoods are rooted more specifically in immigrant culture as it relates to participation in any government program, such as the fear of losing benefits for participating in a government aid program, doubts about eligibility and perceptions of expense.
Undocumented immigrants in particular, cite their legal status as a barrier. In other words, they may not be vaccine-hesitant in the traditional sense of the concept. But rather be vaccine-process-hesitant. They are afraid that they will be asked for documentation and will then be exposed to deportation.
There are also tangible logistical barriers to vaccination. Hispanics over-index as under-insured. This leads to perceptions of expense. There is also a lack of information about local availability in Latino neighborhoods leading to perceptions of low accessibility. And for the same reasons that Hispanics comprise a disproportionate share of essential workers – meaning that they cannot work from home or afford not to work – they are afraid of missing work due to vaccine side effects.
Unfortunately, the burden of closing the vaccine gap in this country is on all of us until we close the medical, political and fear-mongering misinformation gaps among Hispanics.
Marcelino Miyares, Jr – Managing Partner – D2H Partners, LLC – 2021