University of Florida: PA students study vaccine hesitancy among Latinx groups

Vaccinations are key to eradicating many illnesses, including COVID-19. However, researchers have found that certain minority groups may be more hesitant to become vaccinated.

A group of students at the University of Florida College of Medicine’s School of Physician Assistant Studies is planning a study to find out how members of Gainesville’s Latinx population feel about COVID-19 vaccines and determine their likelihood to become vaccinated to find the most optimal ways to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Second-year PA students Kaitlyn Evans, Jasity Rush, Christian Escorcia and Maday Campo are working under the guidance of Nina Multak, Ph.D., MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, the associate dean and Randolph B. Mahoney director of the PA school, to host a focus group in November where Latinx community members will participate in a survey about their beliefs on COVID-19 vaccines, engage in conversations with the PA students to address their questions and concerns and take a follow-up survey.

“I was interested in studying miscommunications taking place during the pandemic and found in my research that there are huge discrepancies between the number of vaccinations among the white population compared to minority groups,” Evans said.

A Paul Ambrose Scholar, Evans is facilitating the Latinx COVID-19 focus group with her classmates as part of a community-based project scholars plan and implement to improve the health of their communities.

She said several factors might lead to increased vaccine hesitancy among individuals in the Latinx community, including a lack of information available in Spanish. They are also less likely to open up to non-Hispanic health care workers, who might not have the same understanding of their culture.

Escorcia, who is Hispanic, said he has noticed misinformation spreading among his family because they often don’t turn to health-centered resources when searching for COVID-19 information.

“People in our culture spread information through word of mouth, and one of the things that’s being talked about a lot lately is ivermectin, even though it’s not a recommended remedy,” he said.

He and Campo, who also speaks Spanish, will serve as translators during the focus group so the participants will have information clearly conveyed in their preferred language.

Evans said following the focus group, participants will receive a survey to gauge whether the conversation with the training health care professionals made them more comfortable with the idea of getting vaccinated and telling loved ones to get vaccinated. If the group shows success, the team hopes similar focus groups can be replicated in nearby areas.

“Health care professionals can seem hard to talk to,” Evans said. “It’s good to have an honest and open conversation between two people because that makes it seem not as scary or intimidating.”

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