‘We’re liking that trajectory:’ Drastic improvement in NC Latinos’ vaccination rates

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The COVID-19 vaccination rate for Latino and Hispanic people in North Carolina has doubled during the past six weeks, a CBS17.com data analysis found.

While the group that accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s population remains underrepresented in its overall vaccination figures, it has made significant progress in a relatively short time — especially as demand for the vaccine across the state appears to be plateauing.

“The trend is that we’re going in the right directions,” said Eliazar Posada, the president and CEO of the Durham-based advocacy group El Centro Hispano.

People identifying as Hispanic make up 6.3 percent of all people vaccinated with at least one dose, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services data dashboard Monday.

That’s a vast improvement from March 8, when only 2.9 percent of all first doses administered went to Hispanics and Latinos.

A closer look shows that group is making up an increasing share of the doses given each week: After accounting for just 2 percent of doses during some weeks in January, they have received shots at a rate equal to — or in excess of — their share of the population for the past five weeks. 

A total of 13 percent of people vaccinated with at least one dose last week were Hispanic.

And of the more than 195,000 Hispanic people who have received at least one dose so far, nearly 143,000 — or, almost three quarters — have gotten that shot or shots since March 7.

“So we’re liking that trajectory, we’re liking that more Latinx folks are getting vaccinated,” Posada said. “But there’s still a ways to go.”

A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found the vaccination rate for white people in North Carolina is 1.9 times higher than it is for Hispanic people — slightly higher than the national average of 1.7 times higher. Among neighboring states, Virginia (1.1 times), Tennessee (1.5) and South Carolina (1.8) have lower ratios.

The pandemic has hit the Latino and Hispanic community hard: That group has accounted for 20 percent of cases, double its proportion of the population.

One reason the numbers have risen so fast — age.

The Latino population skews younger than the rest of the state, with a median age of 24.8 according to the most recent figures from the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Population Center from 2018. That’s far younger than the median age of 38.9 overall.

Older people, either those living in nursing homes or otherwise older than 65, had priority in the earliest phases of the rollout.

And Posada said community groups have held more events targeting Latinos, and brought in trusted leaders to change the minds of those skeptical about the vaccine.

“A lot of folks … have really joined hands virtually to really push up this narrative of, ‘Get vaccinated,’ and hold events,” he said. “For example, El Centro, we’ve been doing like two or three vaccination events a week — when we weren’t doing anything on vaccinations. And then we started doing more events and more events. And we started really building those partnerships between different other nonprofits between institutions of faith — you know, churches, synagogues. And that’s part of the reason that, that we’re seeing some of these numbers increase.”

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