As a physician I am always looking to improve the health and lives of my patients. As a Latino physician I actively look to break down the health disparities that exist within the Latino community and other ethnic communities throughout our region and our country.
There are some health issues that continue to plague our community, and we are searching for solutions – many are complex and will take longer to address. But there is one health disparity that we can fix today, one disease which is completely preventable – but we need to take responsibility for our own health and be proactive. Pneumococcal disease continues to plague the Latino community at higher rates than the general population, or Anglo communities, and it is simply because Latinos are vaccinated at a lower rate than other audiences.
Vaccinations break down those health disparities.
Let me say it again – pneumococcal disease is completely preventable and all it takes is a vaccination. No one has to get sick and suffer with illness, and more importantly, no one should ever die from this disease. Your young child, your grandmother or any other Latino should never have to suffer from this disease and no family should ever have to bury a loved one.
So what is the issue? Is it lack of education on the issue, lack of access to the vaccination, fear of vaccination or just the thought that "it won't happen to me?" It could be any of these reasons, but it shouldn't be. Even if you are low-income, there is assistance with these and other vaccinations. As a community we could do more to get the word out (but you're reading it now so you have no excuse) and if you are afraid of the vaccination then you have false information. Pneumococcal vaccinations do not give you the disease and are proven safe and effective.
So what is the reason for not getting vaccinated? You think it won't happen to you? Well, you're wrong, it can happen to you and to your family members that are not getting vaccinated. More than 4,000 unvaccinated people will get pneumococcal disease and die from it this year, and many more tens of thousands will become ill and suffer from this disease unnecessarily. Latinos in our communities are getting sick and dying needlessly from this disease and this is happening at a higher rate than in other ethnicities because we are failing to be vaccinated.
Don't let this happen to you or any one you care about.
There is no reason to get sick and die from this preventable disease – but you have to become vaccinated and you need to make sure that those around you are vaccinated as well.
Don't wait. Don't put yourself and others at risk. This is a health issue that you can control and you can win – just get vaccinated.
Dr. Margaret Juarez:
Margaret Juarez MD, Board Certified OB/GYN has been in private practice for 25 years in the San Gabriel Valley. She has been active in CMA Foundation and is currently Chair of the Network of Ethnic Physician Organization.