As Flu Epidemic Advances, Latinos More Vulnerable
January 11, 2013

As this year's flu epidemic moves west, a major sector of the population in the Southwest may be particularly vulnerable.

Hispanics are 10 percent less likely to get vaccinated against the flu than non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That could make them more susceptible to getting sick and spreading the flu to others — especially in a year when public health officials say the vaccine is a good match for the worst flu virus going around.

Twenty-four states including New Mexico and Texas are experiencing high flu activity, according to the latest update from the CDC.

Doctors and public health workers say there are a variety of reasons why Latinos are less likely to get vaccinated, including lack of insurance and lack of time.

"A lot of our population, whether they're Hispanic or otherwise, are employed in multiple jobs, so their day is pretty much taken up going from one job to another," said Anita Walton, chief medical officer at San Diego Family Care, which operates two clinics in areas of San Diego with a large number of Hispanic residents.

Dr. Javier Rodriguez, medical director for La Maestra Community Health Centers, a network of clinics in San Diego, echoed that concern.

“If you’re working and you miss a few hours of pay to come get a flu shot, it’s not, you know, in your best interest,” he said.

Rodriguez added that some Latinos fear coming into a clinic if they're undocumented.

Also, both doctors said, some of their patients erroneously think the vaccine will give them the flu.

Still, Rodriguez said this year’s heightened epidemic seems to be driving more Latinos into clinics to get their shots.

La Maestra will be holding its fourth free flu vaccine clinic at its Fairmont Avenue location on Jan. 23 from noon to 3 p.m.

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