Pritzker MS2s' Study Highlights Language Barriers in Vaccine Access

The results of a study by Pritzker students published this month highlighted potential language barriers to accessing COVID-19 vaccines that could be limiting vaccination among Hispanic populations.

The study, “Spanish Language Access to COVID-19 Vaccination Information and Registration in the 10 Most Populous Cities in the USA,” was led by second-year Pritzker students Maria Paz and Diana Marino-Nunez and was published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine on Jan. 20. Dr. Vineet Arora, Pritzker’s Dean for Medical Education, and Dr. Arshiya Baig were also authors on the study.

Paz and Marino-Nunez identified the top 10 most populous cities in the U.S. and determined the percentage of each population that identified as Hispanic through Census data. They then assessed vaccination status among Hispanic populations via Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data and the percent of Hispanics -- who have a 2.3 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to non-Hispanic Whites -- with limited English proficiency (LEP) based on American Community Survey data. With this information in mind, they then analyzed the ease of accessing COVID-19 vaccine information via local department of public health websites, measuring the number of clicks to reach the information and to register for a vaccination in English and Spanish. From there, Paz and Marino-Nunez identified “big box” retailers offering COVID-19 vaccinations and recorded whether their main vaccine information page and vaccine registration were available in Spanish.

The study found that while large portions of the Hispanic populations in the major cities had limited English proficiency accessing COVID-19 vaccine information and registration required more clicks compared to the same language in English. Additionally, half the retailers reviewed did not offer a main information page or vaccine registration page in Spanish.

“While vaccination rates among Hispanics have been improving nationally, this population faces existing inequities around technology access,” the study said. “More clicks could present additional barriers. We recommend that links to vaccine registration be listed on the main page of all vaccine distributors.

“The importance of quick access and navigability of online resources in Spanish is critical to encourage eligible individuals to register and receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”