The Importance of Vaccination among Hispanic Communities

Adolph P. Falcón, MPP, executive vice president of the National Alliance for Hispanic HealthSpecial thanks to Adolph P. Falcón, MPP, executive vice president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health—a supporter of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) Keep Up The Rates campaign—for this guest blog post about the importance of vaccination among Hispanic communities.

A nationally recognized expert on Hispanic health policy, Falcón played a leading role in the landmark Disadvantaged Minority Health Improvement Act of 1990. Most recently, he has been active in the US policy response to COVID-19 as well as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tax Act, Personal Care Products Safety Act, and regulatory efforts to improve equity and quality of care. 

Why do you think the Keep Up The Rates campaign is important to the Hispanic community?

What I am certain of is the importance of reaching the 60 million Hispanics, or one out of every six people in the US, with messages that resonate with their daily life. The campaign is providing useful reminders at a time when keeping up with vaccinations and regular health exams is an ongoing challenge.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted vaccination rates among Hispanics in the US?

COVID-19 has made a difficult situation even worse. Given that Hispanics are the group least likely to have either public or private health insurance, it should not be surprising that according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza (flu) vaccination rates for the 2019-2020 flu season are lowest among Hispanics—38 percent compared to 53 percent for non-Hispanic Whites. An analysis from VaxCare found that non-influenza vaccine rates among individuals of all ages have dropped significantly during COVID-19, with vaccination rates for adults age 65 years and older dropping 83 percent compared to last year.

The National Alliance for Hispanic Health has been actively promoting steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 within the Hispanic community. How can we best stop the spread of disease within communities?

Vaccines are part of the overall toolbox. Along with vaccines, the Alliance is supporting research for new therapies. We are also delivering information including bilingual social media messages on mask wearing and handwashing and a COVID-19 themed bingo game to help families learn how to prevent the spread of the disease. Also, with our partner Sesame Street in Communities, we are providing resources for families with young children on COVID-19 and managing health emergencies.

Vaccination rates for the Hispanic community are often lower than rates for other racial and ethnic groups. What more can be done to promote vaccination among Hispanics?

Access to care is a critical issue and we have to look at vaccine access in the larger context of health insurance and access to health services. There was a time when schools kept records of immunizations not just to check a box but to determine who would be immunized by the school nurse. We should look at innovative programs to promote vaccinations across settings. Many people incorrectly believe that vaccines are only necessary for children.

Why is it important for individuals of all ages to stay up to date on recommended immunizations?

Up-to-date vaccination is essential but it has to be placed in the context of an individual’s experience. Our work in this area started with formative research that guided us on the need to inform people about the importance of vaccines. We had two major campaigns for vaccines: (1) Vacunas desde la cuna (Vaccines since the crib) to let parents know that babies needed vaccines as well as school-aged children and (2) Vacunas para la familia (Vaccines for the family) that covered the entire lifespan. Once people know about vaccines, then you can talk to them about staying current with vaccine recommendations.

What is your key message to Hispanics in the US who are not currently vaccinated against preventable, and often deadly, diseases?

Talk to your healthcare professional and make sure that you and those you love are up to date on all recommended vaccines. If you don’t have a healthcare professional, call the Alliance at the bilingual Su Familia helpline at 866-783-2645 (866-SuFamilia). It is a free service, and we are here to help.

Keep Up The Rates has developed updated Spanish resources focused on improving vaccination rates among all individuals in the US, including a 30-second animated public service announcement video as well as infographics that highlight recommended vaccines for children, adolescents, adults, and older adults.

Additional Spanish Resources on Vaccinations and COVID-19:

Learn more about the Keep Up The Rates campaign and view shareable resources including a new one-page overview on the importance of staying up to date on recommended vaccinations.

To join the conversation and get the latest news on infectious diseases, follow NFID on Twitter using the hashtag #KeepUpTheRates, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, visit us on LinkedIn, and subscribe to receive future NFID Updates.