This content is based on a live web event with Dr. Joseph Betancourt held on August 5, 2021. Watch the video here.
The Delta Variant is Driving a New Surge of Covid Infections
Just as the US emerged from the depths of the pandemic, carried by the strength of the Covid-19 vaccines, the Delta variant has caused a new wave of infections across the country. One month ago, 19% of Americans lived in areas with high or substantial community transmission of Covid. Today, 98% of us do.
The Delta variant has taken root and spread mainly among unvaccinated individuals. Areas with low vaccination rates, notably southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, are experiencing the worst surge of the pandemic so far, with peak hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid-19.
Delta & Communities of Color
Approximately 50% of the US population is fully vaccinated today. While White people make up most of the unvaccinated population, Black and Hispanic people are less likely than their White counterparts to be vaccinated. Due to generations of health inequity, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color since the beginning. The highly contagious Delta variant, combined with lower vaccination rates, leaves communities of color more vulnerable than ever.
Vaccine Resistance in Communities of Color
Vaccine hesitancy among people of color is primarily due to mistrust and misinformation rather than politically motivated hostility toward the Covid vaccines. There are already signs that the vaccination gap is narrowing among racial and ethnic minorities, and vaccination rates are rising among all races in response to Delta. Healthcare providers can help more people of color accept the vaccine by using culturally competent communication and messaging strategies to overcome doubts and resistance.
Culturally Appropriate Responses to 5 common concerns
For many people of color, vaccine hesitancy is based on a long and painful history with the healthcare system, resultant mistrust, and ongoing health inequalities. Culturally competent providers must address this mistrust by proactively seeking to address fears and providing fact-based responses to counter misinformation.
Here are some common objections to receiving the vaccine and evidence-based responses to build trust.
1. I want to wait to make sure the vaccine is safe.
At this point, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are fully vaccinated, with only minor and temporary side effects. All three of the vaccines used in the US have been thoroughly tested and intensely monitored for safety. Clinical trials included people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds to determine safety in those populations. Health agencies have been transparent in publicly reporting the very rare serious side effects that have been identified. It is vastly more likely to get seriously ill from a Covid infection than from a Covid vaccine.
2. The vaccine was developed too quickly.
The Covid vaccines are based on existing technologies and processes developed and tested for years to prepare for infectious disease outbreaks. Worldwide cooperation and effort, extensive government funding, and large numbers of volunteers for clinical trials all contributed to the rapid development of successful vaccines. The speed does not indicate that safety and efficacy measures were skipped or cut short.
3. You can still get Covid even when you're vaccinated.
Breakthrough infections are indeed possible, and it is also possible for vaccinated individuals to spread Covid to others. However, the vast majority of breakthrough infections are mild, and transmission is much higher among unvaccinated people. Delta is extremely contagious and seems to be causing more critical cases than the original strain of Covid in unvaccinated people. The Covid vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe Covid requiring hospitalization or resulting in death.
4. I'm worried the vaccine will affect fertility.
There is no evidence that any of the Covid vaccines cause harm to fetuses or pregnant or lactating women. There is also no evidence that they affect long-term fertility. Reports that the vaccines accumulate in the ovaries, cause miscarriage, or attack the placenta have proven false. In contrast, there is data showing that pregnant and recently pregnant women are at greater risk of severe Covid infections and have a greater risk of preterm birth or other poor pregnancy outcomes.
5. The FDA hasn't fully approved the vaccines.
The FDA's drug approval process is long and laborious and can take years to complete. It involves scrutinizing thousands of pages of data, facility inspections, executive meetings, and more. Still, full approval is expected for the Pfizer vaccine by this fall (Pfizer was the first manufacturer to submit its application for full approval and has been granted priority review). In the meantime, the FDA's emergency use authorization process is also extremely rigorous, based on existing and increasing clinical data showing the vaccines are safe and effective.
More from Dr. Betancourt
For more messaging strategies and information on vaccine hesitancy, watch the video recording of our live web event, The Next Phase: Delta & Communities of Color, with Dr. Joseph Betancourt. In the video, Dr. Betancourt talks about his personal experience as a practicing physician with a diverse patient population and how he appeals to his patients' sense of duty to protect their children and communities.
Watch the video below: