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Health care officials reinforce message of safety despite vaccine hesitancy among certain minorities in Utah

(Courtesy of Ana Ocampo)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Vaccines are now available to all Utahns 16 years old and up, but local officials have noticed vaccine hesitancy among certain minorities. One Salt Lake woman decided to get vaccinated after overcoming some of her initial concerns.

The Ocampo family has every reason to be excited. The addition of their 3-month-old puppy Luna is one reason, and Ana's recent COVID-19 vaccination is another. But choosing to get vaccinated wasn't an easy decision for her.

"It brought back fear from when COVID first hit," Ocampo said. "You just don't know what to expect."

Between misinformation on social media and discouragement from her family, Ana was hesitant to take the vaccine. "Seeing it and hearing about it every day just kind of made me think maybe it's real and so that made me doubt it too," she said of negative comments and myths on Facebook.

"They were like, 'Are you sure you want to get it?' You know, making me doubt like my decision," she said.

Marco Verdeja, community health specialist with Intermountain Healthcare, says it's issues like these that have created access barriers for some populations.

"There are a lot of access barriers that we've seen along with misconceptions that come with the lack of access to … correct information because of the language barrier, perhaps, and the inability to get that information firsthand," Verdeja explained. "Getting that information translated into Spanish takes time and that lag can lead to mistrust, and historically we already have mistrust in this particular group, because of historical trauma (such as) immigration status that might lead to fear.

"With Hispanics, we've seen surveys that have been done nationally show that there is a higher hesitancy to the vaccine than the general population, about 10 points," Verdeja described, according to recent studies.

Ana Ocampo helps her daughter Elizah with homework after school. Elizah has a horseshoe kidney and is high risk, which is another reason Ocampo chose to get vaccinated.
Ana Ocampo helps her daughter Elizah with homework after school. Elizah has a horseshoe kidney and is high risk, which is another reason Ocampo chose to get vaccinated. (Photo: KSL TV)

Verdeja said this is especially true among the younger Latino demographic. Verdeja reinforces the notion: "You might feel that you don't need it right now, because of your age… however by protecting yourself, you're actually protecting everyone else around you."

He said this is especially important in multigenerational homes.

"I have a big family. So gatherings are a big thing for us," Ocamp said.

After doing research, Ocampo ultimately decided to get the shot even though she already had the virus. "I can't even explain the pain that I went through," she said detailing the month-long stomach pain she battled after getting COVID-19.

Her work interactions with patients at LDS Hospital as a food and nutrition services supervisor played a role along with her desire to protect her extended family. "That was a big thing for me — is my family, and so that's mostly the reason why I decided to do it," Ocampo said.

Her oldest child, Elizah has a horseshoe kidney and is high risk as a result. Ocampo wanted to do everything she could to protect those around her. "I just would mostly think about my daughter, how it could affect her," she said.


Ocampo was vaccinated in December with her health care coworkers and said she simply experienced a sore arm. "Do your research. If you're having any doubts, talk to your doctor," she said.

"I also wanted to show my family to not live in fear — that if I could do it, so can they," she said. "And if I need to be the first one to show them and why not."

Being vaccinated has given Ocampo a lot of comfort knowing she can socialize with other people and not worry about exposing someone to the virus or being exposed herself.

"I am so happy that I got vaccinated so that we can show them that we're okay. We can overcome this together," she added.

Ocampo is looking forward to enjoying normal life again with her kids. "Whatever we missed from last year, I want to recover that time this year," she said.

Verjado said there is no cost to the vaccine even if someone is uninsured and it is available to anyone regardless of their immigration status. "These are also barriers that sometimes we hear about, so these are things that you don't need to worry about with a vaccine, you can get it easily," he confirmed.

To register online in Spanish, visit the Utah Department of Health or, or call the Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707.


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