Anti-Vax Groups Are Targeting Minority Communities

It’s a big deal that anti-vax groups are targeting minority communities.

Anti-Vax Groups Are Targeting Minority Communities

Some of these communities already have low vaccination rates and have been hit with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Anti-Vax Groups Are Targeting Minority Communities

Unfortunately, Bobby Kennedy and the latest Harlem Vaccine Forum isn’t the first time this has happened.

Remember when Andy Wakefield, JB Handley, and others targeted Somali immigrants in Minnesota?

How about when opponents of new vaccine laws in California targeted Latinos in the community?

Why is this a problem?

“Q: I do have a question, on behalf of the Hispanic media, and also the African-American media. Rates for vaccinations have been historically low. Could you tell us what those communities can do to try and raise those rates, please? And also, the issues that they’re facing?

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, MD: I think it’s very important that, number one, we reach out in ways to communicate with the minority communities in our country, and that we work with the leadership of those communities to actually educate those communities, bring them in, and to provide access, so that we can actually extend the benefit of vaccination to them. Colleagues?

PATRICIA WHITLEY-WILLIAMS, MD: I would certainly agree with that. I also would say, I am a member of the National Medical Association, which is an association predominantly of African-American physicians. We know about the disparities, with regards to vaccination coverage rates, both in adults and in children. But we also know about the deaths and severity of disease related to flu and pneumococcal infections; there is a disparity there, in terms of hospitalizations and deaths among underrepresented minorities in this country.

It is through education. It also depends on that relationship between adult patients and their providers. Again, there should be no opt-out. Patients need to understand that they’re tremendously at risk, and there is a disparity. As I think we all know, there is a historical context and a belief that exists in the African-American community, in terms of maybe mistrust of the medical system, because of experimentation that had gone on earlier. And again, it’s trying to provide that information and education through providers.”

National Foundation For Infectious Diseases (NFID) September 26, 2019

It is well known that many minority communities have low immunization rates.

“Since 1995, annual estimates of MMR vaccination coverage and poliovirus vaccination coverage increased among all children aged 19–35 months, and since 2007, disparities between racial/ethnic minorities and non-Hispanic white children for these vaccines has been nonexistent.”

Reduction of Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Vaccination Coverage, 1995–2011

Tragically, we are losing many of the gains that we had recently seen in reducing the gaps in vaccination among some racial/ethnic groups.

“HPV vaccine follow-through is lower in racial and ethnic minorities than Whites.”

Spencer et al on Disparities and reverse disparities in HPV vaccination: A systematic review and meta-analysis

In addition to children and teens, we are seeing growing disparities among adults too.

“On further examination, it is evident that some populations receive vaccinations at a level below other populations. For instance, 31% of Hispanic individuals received influenza vaccine in 2014 compared to 34.4% of African American and 46% of White Americans. This difference is also apparent in populations that receive pneumococcal and herpes zoster vaccines. These differences represent disparities in the use of nationally recommended vaccines.”

Anthony Pattin on Disparities in the Use of Immunization Services Among Underserved Minority Patient Populations and the Role of Pharmacy Technicians: A Review

We must continue to work to remove barriers to access to vaccination and encourage providers in these communities to get the message out that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and are obviously necessary.

“There are many Latino and African-American physicians who have a practice that predominantly serves a population of the same ethnicity. We really rely on those providers to help us get the word out, as the press will. These patients trust their providers. We also need to involve community-based organizations to help us in getting the message out as well.”

Patricia Whitley-Williams, MD

Providers, especially in those communities that are being targeted, can improve vaccination rates by:

  • using standing orders, especially during flu season
  • using reminder and recall systems so that everyone knows when they are due for their vaccines
  • providing consumer-oriented information about vaccines to help overcome any negative perceptions, misinformation, and fears parents might have

Don’t allow anti-vaccine propaganda and misinformation to infect your community and make your job harder or put your kids at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease.

More on Vaccines and Minority Communities

Last Updated on

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.