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Dr. Fauci was joined by Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, Kenia Peregrino , and Dr. Robert Rodriguez, who answered the Hispanic Caucus’ questions. Photo: Getty Images
Dr. Fauci was joined by Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, Kenia Peregrino , and Dr. Robert Rodriguez, who answered the Hispanic Caucus’ questions. Photo: Getty Images

Dr. Fauci and Hispanic Caucus Reps discuss Latinos and COVID-19 in a special panel

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On Sept. 30, Dr. Anthony Fauci joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a virtual discussion focused on the effects of COVID-19 on Latinos. 

One thing was already clear and widely reported on before the discussion, and that is the racial inequity that has been highlighted since the virus made landfall in the United States. These dark truths of our healthcare system were already present, but COVID-19 forced all eyes to lock on the inequity.

COVID-19 has sickened and killed the Latinx demographic on a scale beyond the rest of the nation’s demographics, and in a short time, has amassed a toll many cannot begin to comprehend.

Dr. Fauci was joined by Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, Kenia Peregrino, and Dr. Robert Rodriguez, who answered the Caucus’ questions directly related to the Latinx demographic.

“We are seeing the historic decimation of the Hispanic community,” was one grim statement Hotez made, adding that “55% of deaths in Texas are among Hispanics. Roughly 50% in California.”

According to Hotez, Latinos also constitute 35% of deaths under the age of 65.

Dr. Fauci himself noted the “extraordinary disparity in both infection and consequences for minority communities.” He noted a staggering 45% of deaths under age 21 are Latinos.

This scale of inequity must be addressed. Not only to get an accurate picture of the total loss the Latinx population has faced, but also because moving forward, vaccine trials and distribution will be a determining factor in future deaths.
 

Rep. Nanette Barragán prioritized the issue of clinical trial biases when it came her turn to question the panel.

She noted communities like hers, which are largely Latinx, are susceptible to inequities. Many people in her district go to community health centers, and must travel long distances to obtain care.

Barragán also asked Fauci if when there is a vaccine available, will the NIH make sure underserved communities have access?

Fauci replied he didn’t want to promise something he cannot deliver on, since enforcement and implementation would not be conducted under the NIH. Instead, the CDC would oversee the distribution.

However, Fauci made it clear he would follow back with Barragán’s concerns. 

Barragán’s district is the 44th Congressional District in California. It’s 90% Latinx and Black, and has experienced adversities in both cases and deaths from COVID-19, compared to predominantly white areas of Los Angeles County.

Despite the overwhelming amount of Latinx communities rocked by COVID-19, it appears those developing a vaccine find that information negligible.

Back in mid August, Barragán wrote a letter to the NIH, urging vaccine trials in racially diverse communities. It came after reports of vaccine trials lacking in Black, Latinx, and Indigenous participants.

The panel appeared to be aware of the issues the NIH would face moving forward.

“We need to be prepared to go into the communities themselves. They're not well connected,” he noted, adding many Latinx communities are suspicious of outside influences, with good reason.

“That’s why we’re seeing high rates of infection,” he added. 

All panelists agreed it was safe to say President Trump has exacerbated the problem, we need to move on from dwelling on the culprit.

Concrete plans must be made and conducted, like setting up a registry when vaccines begin distribution, increasing contact tracing, and beginning to sort out the vaccine distribution issue. Because although Latinx lives have suffered the most loss, we are still susceptible to more. 



 

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