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UNMC professor: vaccine hesitancy in Latino population is ‘a very complex question’

There is not just one answer to why the Latino communities in Nebraska may be more hesitant to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Dr. Athena Ramos, a University of Nebraska Medical professor, who studies reducing health disparities.

“There’s multiple factors; this is a very complex question,” she said on NET News’ Speaking of Nebraska on Thursday. “And to throw it all in the bucket of vaccine hesitancy, I wouldn’t do that. I think we need to look more at the way that we have made the vaccine available structurally and logistically. And then also think about some of those socio-cultural influences.”

Those structural and logistical issues, Ramos said, manifest themselves in where vaccines are given and who is prioritized at what time by the state government. The other factors would come in questioning the science and misinformation.

It doesn’t help, she said, when the state has said it will prioritize legal citizens and not undocumented immigrants for COVID vaccines, referring to a Jan. 6, 2021 comment from Gov. Pete Ricketts. 

Lazaro Spindola is the executive director of the Latino American Commission in Nebraska.

“You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants,” Ricketts said. “So I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of the vaccine with that program.”

That type of rhetoric creates fear among the Hispanic community and makes them less likely to access vaccines, Ramos said. 

As of Wednesday, Hispanics make up just more than 4% of the state’s first doses delivered, according to Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services data. Hispanics, however, make up 11.4% of the state’s population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures from July 2019.   

To learn more about the Latino experience in the state, watch Speaking of Nebraska tonight at 7 p.m. CT on NET Television or listen tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. on NET Radio.

Vaccine hesitancy among Hispanics — for Lazaro Spindola, the executive director of the Latino American Commission in Nebraska — is a problem of age. The Hispanic population in Nebraska is a much younger population. 2012 figures from the University of Nebraska at Omaha put the median age in the Omaha metro area at 23 years old; whereas, the white population’s median age stood at 40 years old. 

A majority of the Latino population has not “yet gotten to a point where they are being offered the vaccine”, Spindola said, as the state has allocated its vaccines mostly based on age. 

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