Latino leaders, elected officials and health experts are urging the Latino community to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
At a virtual roundtable on Friday, Dr. Sandra Hernández, president and CEO of the California Health Care Foundation, said it’s particularly important for Latinos to get vaccinated because they make up a large portion of the in-person essential workforce and are more likely to be exposed to the virus.
This is especially critical because researchers are still learning about the long-term impacts of COVID-19, Hernández said.
“So it’s not just are you going to survive the loss of taste, but are you going to have foggy brain?” she said. “And are you going to have neurologic conditions? And are you going to have psychiatric conditions? Or are you going to have other organ conditions?”
Hernández added that while reports have focused on seniors as the population at highest risk from COVID, many young Latinos have also become critically ill and died.
“Given the prevalence of this infection in our community, we should be very concerned about understanding long-term COVID symptoms and how those are going to manifest chronically in our communities,” Hernández said.
The roundtable was the first in a series of virtual discussions led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
Thurmond, who is Afro Latino, said he’s holding the roundtables in order to encourage vaccinations in the Black and Latino communities.
"Twenty three percent of the vaccines have gone to Latinos, while Latinos represent 55% of the cases and more than 40% of deaths," Thurmond said, citing California Department of Public Health figures.
Other participants included civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, AltaMed CEO Cástulo de la Rocha, and Dr. David E. Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA.
They spoke of barriers to getting vaccines — like challenges with technology and signing up for appointments online, the lack of information in Spanish and the need for more vaccine clinics in largely Latino neighborhoods — as well as vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation or mistrust toward the larger health system.
California Sen. Alex Padilla sent a video message urging folks to become vaccinated when eligible, adding that all Californians ages 16 and older will be allowed to get their shots starting April 15. Padilla also urged people to keep wearing masks and social distancing until health care officials say it’s safe to stop.