How access paired with distrust is impacting Hispanic communities getting COVID-19 vaccine

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Not a day goes by that Oscar Del Toro, Jr. doesn't think about his father, Del Toro Sr.

The octogenarian contracted COVID-19 after his children took him to lunch for Fathers Day. He died shortly after. At the time, Del Toro, Jr. was the only member of the family who didn't attend. He knew there would be risks.

"After the worst happens, you have to face reality," said the younger Del Toro, who told ABC13 the death of his father has shattered his family into three factions. Now, the Pasadena small business owner is worried his siblings and other relatives won't get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes widely available.

"In my perception, tragedy sometimes doesn't help people to change their minds," he said. "They still think the way they think, but I encourage everyone to take their vaccine."

Del Toro is right to be worried. The city of Houston's Health Department says Hispanics have accounted for 55% of COVID-19 deaths, compared to 21% of Blacks and 18% of whites, and 5.5% of Asians.

Across the country, the CDC data shows that, compared to whites, Hispanics are 1.7 times more likely to get COVID-19, four times more likely to end up in the hospital, and almost three times as likely to die.

A study from the University of Houston found that one-third of Texans are likely to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, and that reluctance is found to be especially true among communities of color.

The study comes as CDC data recently revealed that of those vaccinated in the first month, only 11% were Hispanic, five percent were Black and six percent were Asian.
The findings from this statewide survey by UH's Hobby School of Public Affairs offer insight into who is most likely to decline the vaccine.

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While 56% of Texans leaned toward getting the shot, here's a breakdown of who is not getting the vaccine.

  • Will not be immunized: 22%
  • Probably will not be immunized: 10%
  • Undecided: 9%

A racial breakdown of the respondents:


  • African Americans: 15% undecided
  • Hispanics: 10% undecided
  • Whites: 7% undecided


Here's a breakdown as to reasonings behind not getting the vaccine:

  • Worried about side effects: 66%
  • Vaccine is too new: 65%
  • Believe COVID-19 risks are exaggerated: 44%


Health experts estimate between 70% and 90% of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, so this study shows a lot needs to be done to gain the public's trust.

Meanwhile, the Houston Health Department is gearing up for a large educational push in the communities of color once more vaccines are widely available.

"That's our forte," said Porfirio Villareal, a spokesperson for the city's health department. "Going into those communities ... we have health centers, multiservice centers, [and] WIC clinics. With 42,000 doses received ... that's just not enough to go right now, and everyone's on the same boat: the county, the state, our entire nation. We look forward to the day that we'll get those doses to provide [the vaccines] at neighborhood level."

When the vaccine does become widely available, Del Toro hopes his relatives will be willing to roll up their sleeves.

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