系列报道七 | 高传染性奥密克戎BA.5来了,费城亚裔对新冠疫苗还放心吗?

Reporter:Eleni Finkelstein, Bei Li




这一系列报道是新主流传媒公司与费城华埠发展会(PCDC)合作,和Sojourner Consulting协同,并获得独立公共媒体基金会(the Independence Public Media Foundation)的大力支持。

This article is the seventh of a series of nine stories which seeks to increase visibility and understanding of the diverse Asian American communities in the Philadelphia region and their strengths, challenges and histories. Now more than ever, we must ensure Asian voices have a platform to speak out against the issues impacting our communities.

This series is developed by New Mainstream Press in partnership with the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and in consultation with Sojourner Consulting, with support from the Independence Public Media Foundation.




Jane, the mother of three, is eager to get her children vaccinated amidst the recent announcement by the CDC that children under 5 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Jane’s oldest, 6, is already vaccinated. So is she and her husband. Her two youngest children, 9 months and 3 years, will be visiting their pediatrician soon for the vaccination. 


In June, the CDC approved COVID vaccines for children aged 6 months to 4. Many Philadelphia parents learned the news, but unlike Jane, not everyone is ready to vaccinate their very young children.

Photo credits to comirnaty.com


More than a year and a half after the first COVID vaccines became available, ensuring equitable access to all Philadelphians, regardless of race and income, remains a challenge. So has persistent vaccine hesitancy. Among 5-to-11-year-olds, who have been eligible since last fall, about 37% of Philadelphia’s white children are fully vaccinated, compared to 25% of Hispanic children and 22% of Black children. Vaccination rates among Asian children in this age range are much higher: 57%.


We found that the high vaccination rate among Asian Americans is reflected well beyond the age group of 5-11 years old. According to the data released by the City of Philadelphia, when comparing different ethnic groups, vaccination and booster shot rates among Asian Americans are much higher than those of other ethnic groups. The number of fully vaccinated people accounted for 88% of the total Asian population in Philadelphia, and the vaccination rate of booster shots also reached 48%.

Statistics of covid-19 vaccination rates among different ethnic groups in Philadelphia
Statistics of covid-19 booster vaccination rate among different ethnic groups in Philadelphia

Today, in highly infectious Omicron ba At a time when there may be a new round of infection peak. What is the reason for higher vaccination and booster rates among Asian Americans compared to other ethnic groups?



 Remove language barriers and take the first step of vaccination



In December 2019, a novel coronavirus was found in Wuhan, China. By March 2020, the virus began to affect large areas of the United States, ultimately infecting, sickening, and killing and untold number of people. Mandated public health closures in Philadelphia and elsewhere led to lasting educational, health, and economic impact.  A vaccine against this new virus was seen as the most effective way to end the pandemic.


At the end of 2020, the first COVID-19 vaccines came out, and became more available in January 2021. After prioritizing healthcare workers and immunocompromised individuals, widespread vaccination campaigns debuted in the spring time of 2020 to individuals over the age of 16.


According to the statistics of the Philadelphia Department of Health, at the end of September 2021, the vaccination rate of the Asian community reached 96%. This demographic has a higher percentage of vaccination than Latinos, whites, and Blacks. Researchers found that the active advocacy of the community and the in-place language services were strong driving forces in vaccination efforts.

费城华埠发展会(Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation)是首批推出社区疫苗接种中心的亚裔社区组织之一。2021年3月中旬,在疫苗接种刚刚全面铺开的几天内,一个疫苗接种站就在唐人街的华鼎中心对面开放。

The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) was one of the first neighborhood organizations to launch a community vaccination site, which opened in mid-March 2021 across from the Crane Community Center near the Vine Street Expressway.

Photo credits to WHYY

费城华埠发展会执行主席的陈国贤(John Chin, Executive Director of PCDC)在接受媒体采访时表示:“那个时候,费城的新冠疫苗已经向食品工作者开放。唐人街中餐馆林立,所以很多餐饮从业者都到疫苗接种点接种了第一针疫苗。大家还可以预约,在21天后再来打第二针。这样做,感觉大家受到病毒的威胁小多了。”

John Chin, Executive Director of PCDC, stated: “The city regulations have opened up to food workers, and Chinatown is all about food. And we had quite a few workers come by today who were pre-registered, and now they can go back to work and get their second shot in three weeks and feel like they are safe from the virus.”


“The unique thing about our vaccination site is that we have the cultural and language competency. We have four main dialects that we can offer people so they can feel very comfortable getting the vaccine,” said Chin. Community members were able to check in with volunteers and ask questions in English, Spanish, or one of four Chinese dialects.

在东北费,同样聚居着很多华人。十年前,华裔药剂师李增博士(Dr. Zeng Li音译)在科特曼大街(Cottman Ave)开了一家维康大药房(Wellcare Pharmacy)的分店,为华裔患者做医疗保健服务。在行医过程中,他意识到许多华人由于语言不通而缺乏医疗服务。在新冠疫情期间,让亚裔群体在获得医疗服务时有安全感,更为重要。

Pharmacist Dr. Zeng Li agrees that trust is the leading factor for a patient and doctor relationship, and that similar cultural backgrounds such as language help build that trust. Ten years ago, Dr. Zeng Li opened a branch of Wellcare Pharmacy on Cottman Ave. which advertises care for Chinese patients. Realizing that many of his Chinese peers were lacking medical care due to language barriers, he wanted to create a space that was a safe atmosphere for Asians to get medical care, such as the COVID-19 vaccine.

Photo credits to Dr. Zeng Li


Since the authorization of the vaccine, Dr. Zeng Li has administered about 30,000 vaccines, 95% of those to Chinese-speaking Asian Americans. Visitors of the Pharmacy have traveled from as far away as Delaware to receive care in their native tongue. Dr. Zeng Li also serves the broader public and customers do not have to be Chinese-speaking to visit the pharmacy. 






 Build trust with cultural identity and eliminate fear of vaccines


亚裔美国人联合会(Asian Americans United)也是积极倡导亚裔社群接种新冠疫苗的社团之一。该联合会的公民参与协调员陈伟(Chen Wei音译)表示:“我所在的社区有不接种疫苗的传统。即使是流感疫苗,大家也不愿意接种,”。

Asian American United (AAU) is also one of the associations that actively promotes vaccination in Asian communities. Chen Wei, the Citizen Participation Coordinator of AAU, said, “my community has a tradition of not vaccinating. Even if it’s flu vaccine, people are not willing to vaccinate.”


In order to reach the residents of the Chinese community, the organization used WeChat, the dominant social media platform used by Chinese-born individuals, to disseminate accurate information, provide health advice, and urge everyone to register for the vaccine. Chen Wei also provided translation services of Putonghua and Fuzhou dialects at the vaccination site.


Although many people were looking forward to the early advent of vaccine, many people began to hesitate when the vaccine actually came out. The discomfort of fever and arm pain after vaccination, as well as the side effects of various vaccines, have also frequently appeared in various media and online social circles, making many people shy away from vaccines. There was, and still is, abundant false information about vaccines. This misinformation spreads swiftly in social networks and interpersonal communications.  An important part of Chen’s work at AAU is to eliminate false information about vaccines.


Being able to communicate the small risk of side effects to patients in Chinese has helped patients understand and trust the vaccine. A national survey from NCBI.nlm.nih.gov on how COVID-19 has impacted mental and physical health among the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population shows that 76% of respondents said they had only a very small amount of concern over the vaccine. Vietnamese Americans reported having the least concerns, followed by Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, and Filipino Americans .

AAPI Survey - likeliness to get the vaccine, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov


Of this pool of those with concern, 65% of respondents were concerned about side effects (vs. efficacy or other concerns).Those between 30 and 49 had more concerns than those under 30, and those who self-reported themselves to have good health harbored less concern as well.


When the COVID vaccine first became available to Jane and her husband in early 2021, they were hesitant to get in line. Jane said. Her husband, who works for a university, was required to get the vaccine for work. Soon after, Jane, who was pregnant with her youngest at the time, was advised by her doctor to get the shot. “It wasn’t only about me, it was about the baby…Honestly we don’t fully trust the vaccine so we still wear the masks. I feel like that’s our obligation…We need to protect ourselves and the society. We don’t want to spread the virus.”


Jane believes the hesitancy around getting the vaccination for herself and her Asian peers in America came down to the rush of vaccine production. Coming from the Chinese Mainland, she believes it is cultural values that have influenced her decision to eventually get vaccinated. She explained that Chinese people try not to make quick decisions but having her doctor from a similar background urge her to get vaccinated created trust between her family and their decision to become vaccinated. However, now that Jane and her husband have been vaccinated for over a year without side effects, she is happy to get her remaining children vaccinated.

来自珠峰医疗集团(Everest Medical Group)的李小宾博士认为,来自同一文化的信任感是激励亚裔群体接种新冠疫苗的主要因素。李博士来自中国,她从小受到中医理念的影响,然后在上海和美国接受了西方医学教育,在以西医为主要治疗手段的同时,她还会结合中医的理念和方法,解决患者的病痛。

Dr. Xiaobin Li, a physician with Everest Medical Group agrees that cultural trust is the leading factor encouraging Asians to get vaccinated. Also from China, Dr. Li studied medicine in Shanghai where she learned a mixture of Eastern and Western medicine practices. She practices Chinese Traditional medicine along with western medicine to treat her patients for a variety of issues.

李小宾博士 图片由本人提供
Dr. Xiaobin Li, Personal Photo


Dr. Xiaobin Li says traditional Chinese medicine typically treats the whole body, mentally and physically, rather than targeting the area of discomfort, like western medicine does.  “In Chinese medicine we treat patients as a whole…make them mentally and physically regulated…Combo of Chinese and Western medicine together can actually do much better work for the patient.” Since many Asian countries also follow traditional Eastern medicine practices, such as Korea, Japan, and India, hesitancy around the COVID-19 vaccination was common among Asian groups. Dr. Li believes seeing a doctor who values those traditional forms of medicine while being an expert in Western medicine as well helps patients feel comfortable getting the vaccine.

Everest Group held a free covid-19 vaccine campaign in Philadelphia University City
Photo credits to Dr. Xiaobin Li


Adhering to this concept, Everest Medical Group has held many online and offline covid-19 vaccine lectures, and organized the covid-19 vaccination activities for residents of Chinese, Korean and Indian descent. In a single event, nearly 200 people were vaccinated.






 A Long Way to Go


Wellcare Pharmacy has begun seeing more children aged 5-12 come in for vaccines over the past month. Because school is out for summer, parents and caregivers are likely taking the opportunity to get their children vaccinated without worrying about a disruption at school. While appointments are not needed to visit Wellcare Pharmacy, the pharmacy is only authorized to give the vaccine to patients 5 or older. Children under 5 must see their pediatrician to get vaccinated. 


COVID-19 has not completely subsided and challenges remain. COVID will continue to co-exist with society, especially as the virus mutates and new variants emerge. We hope that Asian communities, especially young children, can work together across all ethnic groups to continue getting vaccines and boosters shots, which are finally available to individuals age 6 months and older.


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