Ethnic minorities feel discriminated against by and distrustful of the health care system
“Alaska is currently the undisputed leader in the United States in the process of vaccinating its residents. Eighteen percent of the population is already fully vaccinated, and more than 20% have received their first dose,” Anchorage infectious disease physician Andrea Caballero tells SOL DE MEDIANOCHE. “However, the immigrant population and ethnic minorities in this state are below average numbers for this vaccination campaign.”
Dr. Andrea Caballero believes that there are several reasons why this is happening: “Socioeconomic differences are reflected in Covid-19 vaccination”, she says, because they are the result of a historical context of discrimination. The economic level of minorities and immigrants is usually considerably lower than that of the white American population, and this implies living in larger groups; working in face-to-face jobs, which they cannot perform from home (telework, or remote work), or which obliges them to have a personal, direct and very close communication and relationship with clients”.
“In addition,” Dr. Caballero continues, “for these minorities, sharing in community is very important. Culturally speaking, they have meals, parties and celebrations, and go to church in groups... They live in community and this facilitates the risk of contagion”.
For Andrea Caballero MD, the low level of education of minorities and immigrants “generates a feeling of distrust towards the system. Let’s take into account the language barrier, the lack of understanding and information, and the fact that they have fewer possibilities of accessing public medical services. The immigrant feels fear because of their immigration status. I am referring to the fact that many of them are undocumented and, because of this, they do not go to the health system: for fear of being asked for their documents and, not having them, they end up being deported”.
These factors make “individuals from ethnic minorities feel mistreated by the system. The problem of racism is still very much alive. Discrimination against certain minorities has been institutionalized, especially with the African-American population since the very origins of the United States as a country.”
The new Joe Biden Administration “has made a good start,” says Dr. Caballero, with its decision to increase vaccines for the entire population. “But steps need to be taken to decrease minority skepticism by encouraging education and more transparency in campaigns”.
President Joe Biden has said that undocumented immigrants should get equitable access to Covid 19 vaccinations without fear of deportation from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In Alaska, regardless of immigration status, everyone over 16 years old is eligible to receive the vaccine.