For months, New York City health leaders have struggled to improve vaccination rates in communities of color.
This may be their biggest victory yet.
According to data from the NYC Test and Trace Corps, 50.82% of city residents who identify as Latino have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of mid-August. That compares with 49.52% of city residents who identify as white.
The statistics reflect a dramatic shift in the demographics of vaccination. At the beginning of June, just over a third of Latino residents had gotten a shot. White people were nearly ten points ahead.
But in the two and a half months that followed, the white vaccination rate increased by only about 5 points, while the city’s Latino vaccination rate jumped nearly 15 points.
“We have some great news today. We see vaccination rates among certain Latinos, all ages, going up. And that’s due to a lot of work within the communities,” said Dr. Judith Flores, Team Leader for Community Vaccination Engagement at the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation.
But Flores cautioned, there is much work to be done – because the pace of vaccination is still lagging in clusters of predominantly Hispanic zip codes – especially in The Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and pockets of Queens and Brooklyn.
“Risk is very local. So if you look at your risk, look at your zip code. Look at people around you. Look at where your child is going to school,” Flores said.
We thought we could control the pandemic with about 70% of the country vaccinated. But with the Delta variant leading to case surges even in highly vaccinated countries, that changes the math. We may need 90% to take the COVID-19 vaccine to really wrangle with this variant, says Alabama epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Judd.
Why are some Hispanic neighborhoods still lagging in vaccination numbers?
Public health leaders lay much of the blame on Spanish language social media, where anti-vax messages are plenty.
Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James joined the Hispanic Federation, calling on social media platforms to better police vaccine misinformation that circulates in Spanish.
Frankie Miranda, President of the Hispanic Federation, said too often social media companies claim success when they take down a piece of vaccine misinformation in the English language – but allow a Spanish language falsehoods to persist.
“There are myths that have been debunked in English and social media has been able to stop the spread of this information that has been repackaged and targeted into our community,” Miranda said.