Dr. Melissa Martinez-Adorno, working to build trust in COVID-19 vaccine

Hugo Balta

In New Hampshire, as it is across the country, people of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and now studies show they’re also more hesitant to get vaccinated against it. The skepticism is in part due to a lack of reliable information, especially in Spanish.

A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 26 percent of Hispanics – Latinos said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible, compared to 40 percent of whites. Around 43 percent of Hispanics – Latinos said they would “wait and see,” and 18 percent said they would definitely not get the vaccine, according to the survey.

In the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Survey Center poll, 78 percent of people who identify as non-white in New Hampshire said they would “probably not” or “almost certainly not” get the COVID-19 vaccine; Republicans are less than half as likely as Democrats to get it; and in the North Country, a third of survey respondents said they would “almost certainly not” get vaccinated.

“My hope is that as Latinos see that I, as a Latina who has four children and who just kind of came from the same kind of background…to be able to model the behavior of receiving that vaccine, I think that’s step one,” said Dr. Melissa Martinez-Adorno, an OBGYN at Southern New Hampshire Health in an interview with WBUR.

Dr. Martinez-Adorno has been making sure COVID-19 vaccine information is available at her hospital in diverse languages. She’s already started getting the word out herself through local Spanish media.

In what was a polarizing election, mistrust of the government is prevalent in undocumented communities — and why some immigrants fear that data collected when vaccines are given could later be used by immigration authorities.

Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the state Bureau of Infectious Disease Control told WMUR9, “We want our messaging to be culturally responsive and addressing that there may be some mistrust with government and the health care system, and that is why it is so important to connect with community leaders.”

Elliot ICU nurse Jennifer O'Neill was among the first in New Hampshire to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Martinez-Adorno (on the right) among first in New Hampshire to get COVID-19 vaccine.
(Photo credit: NHPR, JORDYN HAIME

Dr. Martinez-Adorno was one of the first people in the state of New Hampshire to get vaccinated publicly in early December.

“I felt it was my responsibility as a Latina physician in the state who’s been a resident of the state for almost 20 years that I felt it was safe, and I was willing to go first for them. And I really just feel hopeful. It was really emotional, actually,” she said.