Latinos Are Particularly Reluctant to Get Flu Pictures – How a Small Clinic in Indiana Discovered Methods to Overcome That
By Pamela M. Aaltonen, Purdue University and Jennifer Coddington, Purdue University
Tens of millions of Americans avoid the flu vaccine each year. Less than half of adults in the United States got the shot during the 2019-2020 flu season.
The Latino population is more reluctant than most other groups to get the flu vaccine and often pays a heavy price for their health. An analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 10 flu seasons found the Latino community to have the third highest flu-related hospitalization rate of any population.
As public health professors and researchers, we want to know why the Latino population in particular is so wary of the vaccine.
Here are a few reasons: Latinos worry about whether the shot is safe. You are wondering if it works. You wonder if it is actually needed. Confidence in the vaccine is an important predictor of influenza vaccination in Latina women.
A flu shot doesn’t just stop the flu from spreading. It could also be an indicator of who is ready to receive a COVID-19 vaccine – and vice versa, who is not and why. Understanding why large groups of people are reluctant to be vaccinated is more important than ever – and what can be done to earn their trust. We believe our experience at a clinic in rural Indiana could shed some light on this important topic.
Historically low rates despite high rewards
According to reports from the 2019-2020 influenza season, 38% of Latino adults were vaccinated, compared with 41% of blacks, 42% of Native American or Alaskan people, 52% of Asians, and 53% of whites. However, when children are included in the calculation rates, the numbers for Latinos rise. Latino children are usually more likely to be immunized than their parents.
Those who get the shot have lost fewer work and school days. They reduce the risk of medical intervention by 40% to 60%. This includes visits to overcrowded emergency rooms. In communities with known influenza virus circulation, vaccination reduced hospital admissions for children by 41%. In adults, vaccines reduce the likelihood of admission to an intensive care unit by 82%.
Those with the lowest influenza vaccination rates are also disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Because both diseases have the same symptoms, tests are needed to distinguish one disease from the other. This will distract health workers from other tasks. Hospitals already overcrowded with COVID-19 patients are being asked to make room for people with severe influenza.
This is especially important this year as healthcare providers strive to prevent the possible twinkemics of influenza and COVID-19. Even during normal times, the Latino community may be at increased risk of exposure to the flu virus. Many have jobs in crowded work environments like meat packers, warehouses, and farms.
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Enter a rural community
The Family Health Clinic in Monon, Indiana, a rural community in White County, Indiana, has taken relatively simple steps to build trust with the local Latino population. The clinic, which has been recognized by the US government as a place of quality care for a traditionally underserved population, is staffed by nurses. In collaboration with the Purdue University School of Nursing, the Family Health Clinic serves a clientele that is 52% Latinos.
An important part of gaining trust was making sure the staff were bilingual. Other strategies the clinic used to build relationships with the Latino population included sponsoring community activities and inviting Latinos to participate on the clinic’s board. Perhaps most importantly, building a reputation as a safe, affordable, and respectful place for excellent health care in an environment where staff heard and answered questions about vaccines.
Brenda Andrade is one of the many who recently caught her influenza there. She has five children aged 4 months to 9 years. Andrade was ready to get a shot because she “wanted to make sure her family was protected”.
Two other residents, Juan and Elidia Miranda, also made flu vaccination a priority. “We have caught colds from time to time, but not influenza,” said Juan Miranda. After talking to the clinic staff, they saw the benefits of staying healthy for themselves and their families.
Community health centers like the Monon Clinic have long been a trusted source for those who otherwise do not have access to health care. You’re more than equipped to tackle the reasons Latinos often give for not getting the shot. But will this willingness to get the flu vaccine from a trusted source lead to the COVID-19 vaccine being obtained when it becomes available?
The answer is probably yes. A history of taking other vaccines is an important indicator of future behavior, as is a vaccination recommendation from the trusted health care provider. The employees of the Monon Clinic have already initiated a discussion about the reasons for the vaccination and exchanged the available safety and efficacy data with the patients.
Pamela M. Aaltonen, Professor Emerita; Immediate Past President, APHA, Purdue University; and Jennifer Coddington, Clinical Professor of Nursing, Purdue University
This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.