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Coronavirus Files: Latinos report vaccine hurdles; CDC fails at messaging

Coronavirus Files: Latinos report vaccine hurdles; CDC fails at messaging

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Since Apri 2020, the Center for Health Journalism has been publishing a special newsletter geared to journalists as they report on one of the biggest and most complex stories of our times. Each Monday, while the pandemic runs its course, The Coronavirus Files will provide tips and resources and highlight exemplary work to help you with your coverage. This week, The Center for Health Journalism’s Coronavirus Files Monday newsletter is curated and reported by science writer Amber Dance, PhD. Have a suggestion or a request? Write us at
6/9 Webinar: The vaccine tipping point
Now that vaccine supplies are starting to outpace demand in much of the country, we’ll explore who remains unvaccinated and efforts aimed at hard-to-reach groups. More info below. Register here.
Many Latinos want a vaccine, but face barriers
Vaccination rates lag among Latinos, but that’s not necessarily because they don’t want the vaccine, according to a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. “It is not about vaccine hesitancy; it is about logistics,” Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, told AP. The poll found that one in three unvaccinated Latino adults are eager to get the shot, but many are worried about having to take time off work, the cost of vaccination (even though it’s free), being asked to provide identification, and impact on immigration status. One approach that seems to be working, writes AP’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, is providing vaccines at community health centers; Latinos who have been vaccinated were twice as likely as Blacks or whites to have gotten their shot at such a center. Community health centers have now handed out more than 10 million vaccines.
Among Latinos, many men remain hesitant about the vaccine, writes Alejandra Reyes-Velarde in the Los Angeles Times. Their reasons, she reports, “range from misinformation to busy schedules, lack of familiarity with the health care system and fear of side effects.” Physician Ilan Shapiro told her that reaching Latino populations requires more than just a Spanish translation of vaccine information, but cultural connections and trust.
You're not the only one confused by the CDC
In the wake of the CDC’s recommendation that vaccinated individuals can go maskless nearly everywhere, Buzzfeed News summed up the situation with a headline: “Basically everyone is mad at the CDC for being so confusing about masks.” Health experts say the sudden announcement, even if backed by solid science, “went against everything that’s known about how to clearly inform the public,” writes veteran science reporter Dan Vergano. The NIH’s Anthony Fauci has already had to address misinterpretations of the new guidance, clarifying that masks are still required for people who haven’t completed a vaccine course.
But even those who understand the guidelines have been baffled. “If you’re a parent like me,” writes Anna Nowogrodzki at Slate, “you likely have one overarching question: What am I supposed to do now?” Children under 12 aren’t eligible for vaccination, so they still have to wear masks, but the CDC hasn’t offered any tips on how a partially vaccinated family should navigate the next few months. People who are more susceptible to infection, or unlikely to mount a good vaccine response due to immune conditions, also feel left out. “Those of us with chronic illness, and particularly cancer, have been told to simply stay at home,” writes Jillian C. York, also at Slate. “There are few statistics to guide us in our decision-making, because we were not included in most research.”
The CDC’s recommendations are just that, advice, leaving rules up to states and businesses and resulting in a mind-boggling patchwork of regulations. California, for example, will keep its indoor mask mandate until June 15. In Oregon, people can unmask indoors if they show their vaccination card — "putting the onus on businesses, employers and faith institutions to check vaccination records,” writes Jamie Goldberg for The Oregonian. In contrast, the governor of Texas recently banned government entities, such as public schools, from enacting or enforcing mask mandates. And at Politico, Rebecca Rainey reports that the new CDC recommendations may have scuttled plans by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require masking at workplaces.
“There’s not just one way to send public health messages,” health communication expert Elisia Cohen, of the University of Minnesota, told Vergano, “but there are better ways than this.”
Virtual learning disastrous for special needs students
Grade school by Zoom has been a hardship for many families, but children with diverse disabilities have been particularly affected by the sudden and ongoing loss of typical learning routines, report Hannah Natanson, Valerie Strauss and Katherine Frey for The Washington Post. Some students have thrived in the digital environment — on Zoom, no one can see your wheelchair — and some schools have excelled in adapting education. But overall, school districts across the country have widely failed in their responsibility to educate the more than 7 million students eligible for special education, the trio writes. Some children with autism have seen the return of old symptoms or appearance of startling new ones, such as hallucinations. With children falling behind in basic skills like reading and math, the learning gap could be long-lasting.
Where do we go from here?
“Victory over COVID has not yet arrived, but it is growing close,” writes David Leonhardt for The New York Times. But victory might not look the way we once imagined it. The tipping point for herd immunity, that long-sought threshold that curbs further spread, is more and more being recognized as an unhelpful fixation. Helen Branswell at STAT describes a more subtle sort of ending, an “immunological détente” in which the virus is still around but most people have enough immunity to keep the infection at a simmer rather than a deadly boil. Scientists would then describe the virus as “endemic” — like the four other coronaviruses that regularly give us colds.
When can we pop the champagne? Experts are loath to make definite predictions, but Jennie Lavine of Emory University told Branswell, “In the U.S., I would say that is not far off.”
From the Center for Health Journalism
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JUNE 1 for our 2021 National Fellowship
Did the press of news get in the way of applying? We're giving you some extra time to apply for $2k-$10k in reporting grants, up to $2k in community engagement grants, a week of intensive training via Zoom and five months of peer-to-peer mentoring while you work on an ambitious reporting projects. Click here for details. 
6/9 Webinar: The vaccine tipping point
As vaccine supply overtakes demand, governments and employers are devising out-of-the-box incentives to get more people immunized against COVID-19. In this webinar, we’ll explore who remains unvaccinated and efforts aimed at hard-to-reach groups. Along the way,we’ll share story ideas for covering the next phase of the fight against the pandemic in local communities across the country. June 9, 10 a.m. PT. Sign up here!
What we're reading
  • “Trans during a plague: The pitfalls and unexpected positives of pandemic life,” by Steven Blum, Los Angeles Magazine
  • “Meet the four kinds of people holding us back from full vaccination,” by Sema K. Sgaier, The New York Times
  • “Desperate for treatment, COVID ‘long haulers’ push for 9/11-style health registry,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein and Dan Goldberg, Politico
  • “Johnson & Johnson documented contamination risks at Baltimore plant months before vaccine was ruined,” by Christopher Rowland, The Washington Post
  • “COVID-19 vaccine trials underway for kids 5 and younger,” by Lesley McClurg, NPR
  • “This school district has not reopened. The trauma and loss from COVID-19 was just too great,” by Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times

Events and Resources

  • May 26, 2-3:30 p.m. PT. COVID-19 Conversations hosts a webinar about what to expect once COVID-19 becomes endemic and managing future outbreaks.
  • The COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub points to explainers and expert commentary, contributed by science media centers around the world, to help journalists and fact-checkers.
  • The Society of Professional Journalists offers a toolbox for COVID-19 fact-checking.
  • The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute shared a COVID-19 resource guide curated by expert librarians.
  • The COVID-19 Misinformation Playbook from the Online News Association includes tip sheets, source lists and explainers.


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Are you passionate about helping journalists understand and illuminate the social factors that contribute to health and health disparities at a time when COVID-19 has highlighted the costs of such inequities? Looking to play a big role in shaping journalism today in the United States? The USC Center for Health Journalism seeks an enterprising and experienced journalism leader for our new position of “Manager of Projects.” 



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