Hispanic Community Leaders Say Misinformation Hurting COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts
Christy Martinez-Garcia and her organization, Los Hermanos Familia, hosts the annual Vamos a Pescar fishing competition. The event, which gathers the Hispanic and Latino community, was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so there was a lot of anticipation for its return this month.
Martinez-Garcia asked her marketing team to include a question in the registration form - “Have you been vaccinated?”
The Hispanic community leader thought it was a simple question. But the response the organization received showed otherwise.
“All of a sudden, I had a few calls...it became an issue,” Martinez-Garcia said. “This guy posted on social media platforms and they started coming against us, just for a stupid question.”
She wasn’t expecting that. She added, “For the sake of our organization, we decided to remove the question. No big deal.”
A new wave of COVID-19 cases has surged for weeks in Texas, and Lubbock leaders have ramped up vaccination efforts in response. Vaccination rates in Lubbock have increased over the last few weeks. Just in the past month, as the spread of the coronavirus rose again in the community, more than 16,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots were administered in Lubbock County, state data shows.
However, some of the city’s most vulnerable groups are hesitant to get a shot, including the Hispanic population.
Martinez-Garcia said there are several reasons why the Hispanic community may not be lining up for the vaccine.
“You’ve got local government doing one thing, state government doing another, and then look at our governor who is so out of touch with the people he serves,” Martinez-Garcia said. “Then the federal government and all the resistance. So there’s a lot of people that are confused and going off misinformation.”
About a quarter of Lubbock’s Hispanic population is vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Statewide, around 36% of Hispanic Texans are vaccinated.
The lower vaccination rate has some local leaders concerned.
“Early on in the pandemic, our Hispanic population had the exact same incidents of disease that every other racial group had, but they were more adversely affected by it,” said Dr. Craig Rhyne, chief medical officer at Covenant Health. “I’m scared to death that’s going to repeat itself.”
Rhyne voiced his concerns at a recent City of Lubbock news conference regarding the uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“For reasons unbeknownst to me, our Hispanic population is one of the more resistant to getting the vaccine,” said Rhyne. “We’ve got to get that message out. This is really hurting them more than everybody else.”
Chico James is one of the page administrators for the North Lubbock Facebook group, and has an idea about what is causing the hesitation. In North Lubbock, where residents are predominantly Hispanic, James said the way the community has been treated over the years has created distrust.
James said, “If the government officials are urging you to get vaccinated, and you know the government in your state has spent all its time figuring out ways to harm you by gerrymandering and so forth, then why should you trust the government?”
James referenced other ways the community has been let down in recent years, including shutdowns of schools in East and North Lubbock such as Tubbs and Arnett Elementary.
While he gives credit to local leadership for trying to do the right thing, James said that some residents in the area don’t know who to trust.
“They’ve done horrible things, like trying to close up schools in North and East Lubbock and on through the years,” James said. “So if that’s the context, then some small percentage is going to have a distrust in what people in authority have to say.”