Undercount May Explain Lag in Latino Vaccinations in Santa Clara County

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There was a troubling lag in the number of Latinos getting vaccinated in Santa Clara County, but rather suddenly, the number of unvaccinated Latinos in the county dropped by more than 15%.

Part of the reason for the drop is a major awareness campaign in the county, but NBC Bay Area has also learned there may have been something wrong with the way people were being counted.

County leaders began to crunch the numbers and discovered the form people fill out before vaccination was confusing.

For instance, one form doesn't show a race option for Latinos. That category is in the ethnicity section. So, people were simply checking the box marked "other," leading to an undercount.

The forms are not consistent from provider to provider.

"Each hospital system had their own way of categorizing," Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. "So, for a lot of folks, including me, you can have race and ethnicity in two different boxes. It was easy to hit 'other' because you don’t see what you are right away."

The state health department said on some of the forms it's much easier to just mark "other" or "unknown."

Here's what that means at the state level: to date, 1.8 million people have selected "other" race when getting vaccinated, while 1.14 million selected "unknown."

"I do think the forms are confusing in how you fill them out," Chavez said.

Even with corrected numbers, community activists said they're still alarmed that 48% of the county's Latinos remain unvaccinated.

They said lies about vaccines and their side effects are partly to blame.

"It's not only trying to do the outreach to reach into the community but to combat this virus of disinformation as well," Saul Ramos with Somos Mayfair said.

Groups like Somos Mayfair said they'll keep taking the fight to the virus in communities showing high spread and hesitancy to win the war against the pandemic.

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