Coronavirus Chronicles — Risk and Resistance in Minority Communities

The mutual worsening effect of obesity and the virus has been discussed many times in this blog, and their combined influence is only growing worse. Extra body weight is catnip to the virus, and the debilities caused by the illness, in either caregivers or children, are likely to contribute even more significantly to obesogenic life situations and a lack of resources that was already severe in the pre-COVID days.

Last year at this time, Latinos in high-risk states were “1.3 to 1.6 times more likely to be infected than their proportion of the population would suggest.” For a study, hospitalization records were collected from 14 states. In the fall of 2020, out of every three children admitted with COVID-19, one was in the ICU. Also,

Of the 526 children for whom race and ethnicity information were reported, 45.8% were Hispanic, 29.7% were Black, and 14.1% were White.

In September, a CDC study of 391,814 cases among people under age 21 found that some ethnic groups included a disproportionate number of essential workers unable to shelter in place or work from home. The problem there includes the possibility of secondary transmission to other household members, including, of course, young adults, teens, children, and infants, all of whose numbers were heading inexorably in an upward direction.

Among the subjects, 121 had died. Journalist Alexandra Sifferlin wrote,

Even though Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaskan Native people account for 41% of the American population under age 21, these three groups accounted for about 75% of deaths from Covid-19 in this age group.

As recently as this June, noted, “Unfortunately, Latinos make up a very low percentage of those getting a vaccine, despite being disproportionately hurt by COVID-19.”

Extrinsic and intrinsic factors

Why the disappointing turnout for vaccination? One drawback has been a lack of access. Despite being accurately described as “essential workers,” and even though they might work directly with patients and technically be part of health care, service workers were not given the highest priority in eligibility to receive the vaccine. In many places, such employees tend to be Latino and Black.

Even for the eligible, certain areas tend for some reason to offer relatively few vaccination sites. Of the county that includes Boston, Julia Weis wrote:

Fewer than 14 percent of Black residents and roughly 26 percent of Latinos live in census tracts that are within 1 mile of a vaccination site, compared with nearly 46 percent of white residents. With fewer vaccination sites in hard-hit areas, residents are expected to travel across the city to receive a vaccine — an often unrealistic ask for those who can’t afford transportation costs or are unable to take time off from work.

There is also the matter of limited internet access, which impedes the search for vaccination sites and the ability to schedule appointments. James Rudyk, executive director of the Northwest Side Housing Center in Chicago, said,

Our folks don’t have emails, they don’t have computers at home… They have smartphones, but they are not navigating registration systems that want you to fill out pages and pages of information.

This combines with a general lack of bilingual information. Outreach workers have reported that some of their contacts didn’t even know there was a vaccine. What has been termed “vaccine resistance” or “lack of vaccine confidence” has both rational and emotional elements. Minority Americans are on some level aware that their communities have been psychologically manipulated by advertising and by targeted misinformation about other matters. Many have faced bias and discrimination from the medical sector, whether because of their obesity or their race, or a combination.

Very recently, a corner seems to have been turned, and grassroots vaccination efforts are paying off. According to Centers for Disease Control number-crunching, writes Nada Hassanein,

Over the past two weeks, people of color have been vaccinated with a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine more than white people when compared to their shares of the population… While Hispanic and Latino people make up 17% of the nation’s population, they totaled more than a quarter of those who initiated vaccination in the past two weeks.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A Second Coronavirus Death Surge Is Coming,”, 07/15/20
Source: “COVID-19 Hospitalization Data From 14 States: 1 in 3 Youths Admitted to ICU,”, 09/08/20
Source: “Black, Hispanic, and American Indian Children Make Up Most Covid-19 Deaths Among Kids,”, 09/18/20
Source: “Latinos Vaccinated for COVID-19 at Far Lower Rates than White People,”, 06/01/21
Source: “Amid climbing COVID cases and community efforts, racial disparity in vaccinations appears to be narrowing,”, 08/05/21
Image by Sue Thompson/CC BY-ND 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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