race for a vaccine

Vulnerable Communities: Hard-Hit Latino Population Split on Vaccine Requirement

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Latino communities around the Bay Area have been hit by the coronavirus harder than most and yet there seems to be conflicting opinions among them about whether or not a vaccine should be mandatory.

Regional Medical Center in San Jose serves a large number of Santa Clara County’s Latino communities, and last week, the hospital had fewer than five ICU beds available.

In all but two Bay Area counties, nearly or more than half of the coronavirus cases have been in the Latino communities.

Stanford epidemiologist Dr. Yvonne Maldonado says there’s more than one reason Latinos are getting sick at a higher rate.

"We need to get the Latino community, they are just not paying attention," Maldonado said. "Part of it is that they have to work, and they don’t think they’re going to get that sick. What we’re seeing is whole families are getting sick."

And COVID-19 isn’t the same for everyone. Younger patients may get less sick or experience less severe symptoms. But in a lot of Latino families, several generations live in the same home. And some have limited access to health care.

Many Latinos work in essential businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants. Restaurant worker Oralia Garcia hopes the vaccine will be mandatory, but others aren’t so sure.

"I don’t think it's any different, just a little different because of the pandemic," Garcia said. "But I think it’s safe."

"I think it should be a choice and not something forced upon us," said Blake Simes of San Jose.

Syed Rahaman of San Jose added: "If it’s essential that he employee be there, especially service, I think it makes sense. If an employee can work from home, then it should be a choice."

It will be a while before essential workers not in health care can get a vaccine. And even then, they may not take it.

Just a third of Latinos said they trust vaccine safety, according to a recent survey by national health experts.

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