COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence

Trustworthy Messengers & Messages Among the Latino Community

Since mid-March, 2020, our country’s various coronavirus messengers and their messages have been highly scrutinized but also heavily relied upon regarding not only scientific efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine itself, but also to dispel overwhelming amounts of misinformation. This is especially true when we concentrate on the low-level vaccine-trust among immigrant communities. Who are the messengers Latino communities listen to, and what truths of their messages are being heard?

A series of hybrid in-person and virtual focus group in Spanish consisting Latin adults nationwide, and moderated by our own ACSI Translation’s President and CEO, Andres Echeverri, through the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the COVID 19 Vaccine Confidence Report, found that a mere 37% cited they were “very likely” to be vaccinated. This was true even if the vaccine was approved by the FDA. However, we also learned that the FDA plays a critical role among Latinos: 54% of participants responded with “a great deal of trust” in the FDA for accurate and honest information. When a sentence begins with, “FDA,” the message is more “compelling” because they are a “credible entity.” By the end of the first ten focus statements, the percentage jumped to 46% “very likely” to get vaccinated. 92% of the participants were convinced that “By getting a COVID-19 vaccine, [they] are protecting [their] child, parents, grandparents, or other loved ones.”

In addition to at least partially trusting the FDA, a large majority, 77%, believe in the information that comes from their own doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc., and this is corroborated by another study done by the Reagan-Udall Foundation, entitled, COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Project Executive Summary. This study revealed that while 83% of participants trust their personal doctors, only 35% trusted the sitting president, Donald Trump. This is echoed in ACSI’s focus group with 77% citing, “No trust at all” in the president’s ability to give accurate and honest information. Would these numbers change under a different administration?

Now that President Joe Biden’s Administration is in place, we may see the numbers shift in a positive direction with more trusting Latinos, even simply because President Biden supports Dr. Anthony Fauci. Information written in an article, Skepticism and mistrust challenge COVID vaccine uptake for Latinos, from states that because of “…the ongoing anti-immigrant rhetoric fueled by the former Trump Administration, fear and mistrust among the Latino community is a major challenge.” “President Biden has taken an important first step by establishing a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force” that functions within the Department of Health and Human Services—the major recommendation remains: recognize the saturation level of mis-information about the vaccine within Latino communities, and counter it with facts using bilingual messages.

As you can see, messengers do have different roles in this fight for COVID-19 vaccine truth. If you are a health expert, combat disinformation and get closer to people in order to gain public trust. Family and friends play a pivotal role and should act responsibly, persuading loved ones to get the vaccine. Immigrant communities will continue to garner vaccine-messages with skepticism, but hopefully, with more and more unwavering trust.