My Moral Responsibility To Get The Hispanic Community Vaccinated
On Monday January 27th, I got an email from my supervisor with the coveted letter saying I could now be vaccinated because of my role in a social service agency. For a month and a half, I went on pharmacy websites and county waitlists several times a day until I finally got my first shot on March 11th. During this process, I realized I needed to work to ensure vaccine access for the immigrant families in my program at Catholic Charities, many of whom do not have the time, or the language and technology skills, to navigate the process like I did. Now that vaccines are more widely available and accessible, my efforts have shifted to supporting families who are still making the decision whether to get vaccinated.
From experience, I know that Hispanic families had been greatly, and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and survey data from the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey corroborates this:
More than one-third of multiracial Americans (37%) and around one-third of Hispanic Americans (32%) say they have had their hours or pay cut, compared to around one in four or less of Black Americans (25%), white Americans (23%), and Americans of other races (21%).
About one in five multiracial Americans (20%), Black Americans (19%), and Hispanic Americans (18%) report losing their jobs.
More than one in five Hispanic (24%) and multiracial Americans (22%), compared to significantly fewer white Americans (15%), Americans of other races (13%), and Black Americans (12%), report that they or someone in their household have tested positive for COVID-19. (p.30)
I am committed to working with the immigrant community to access the vaccine promptly and stop the devastation caused by COVID-19. I am doing this work with the support of the DuPage County Health Equity and Access Response Team (HEART) and IFYC’s Alumni Vaccine Network. The former is tackling local obstacles to equitable vaccination, like language access, transportation, and clinic locations and schedules. The latter is equipping me with tools to understand vaccine hesitancy and best practices from fellow interfaith leaders to increase vaccination. As part of the Alumni Vaccine Network, I was introduced to the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey.
The Survey found that 52% of Hispanic Americans have received a vaccine or say they will get vaccinated as soon as possible, and 37% are more likely to be vaccine hesitant, to say they will wait and see how the vaccines work, or to only get vaccinated if required (p. 12-13).
In DuPage County, where I do most of my work, only 4.7% of vaccine recipients are Hispanic, even though the percentage of Hispanic population in the county is over 13%. Interestingly, the survey delved deeper and specified the religious groups that Hispanics belong to and their interest in getting the vaccine, finding that more than half of Hispanic Protestants are either vaccine hesitant (42%) or vaccine refusers (15%), while 56% of Hispanic Catholics are vaccine acceptors (p.12). However, both Hispanic Catholics and Protestants are among those most concerned about things like vaccine safety and side effects (p. 21).
The survey didn’t only show me the challenges to getting my community vaccinated, but also showed me a path forward. The report demonstrates that approximately one-third of Hispanic Americans (33%) who are vaccine hesitant say one or more faith-based approaches would make them more likely to get vaccinated (p.6). Since it was published, I have used the information in this report to guide my work.
Working at a Catholic organization, I recognize my own influence on families who have been working with me, who trust me, and who see me as a representative of the Church. I individually texted every family I have worked with in the past year, and asked them whether they have been vaccinated or what their biggest concerns are. I helped connect them with vaccination clinics, health providers, and trusted information sources. In less than I week, I have helped over a dozen community members get vaccinated.
Additionally, I am partnering with parishes to offer resources to their communities. Last Sunday I visited Divine Savior Catholic Church in Downers Grove, IL, and gave a five minute witness about my vaccination experience, invited families to get the vaccine or ask for information, and offered my services to assist them in the process. Moving forward, I plan to partner with other Catholic parishes and Protestant churches with Hispanic congregations, so that together, we can reach as many households and protect our community.
As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis suggested earlier this year that we have a moral obligation to get our COVID-19 vaccines for the common good. Now that I have mine, my moral obligation is to guide others in their decision, provide them with accurate and timely information, and help them overcome any obstacles in order to make the best possible decision for themselves and our communities.
You can find the full repot here: https://www.prri.org/research/prri-ifyc-covid-vaccine-religion-report/
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.