COVID-19 Vaccine Availability Gives Hope for Asian American and Pacific Islander May Heritage Month

CDC continues to provide guidelines on safely gathering, traveling for fully vaccinated people

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a celebration of AAPI achievements and a time for the country to recognize our community’s contributions throughout U.S. history.

This year, in the face of anti-Asian hate incidents and our community’s continued economic and social challenges, AAPI Heritage Month takes on a new meaning: Hope. As of this month, anyone aged 12 and older is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. States are also seeing increases in the availability of vaccine appointments, a shift from previously hard-to-get appointments.

As of May 17, the CDC reported 157 million Americans have made the choice to be vaccinated. Among this number, at least 5.9% of Asians (non-Hispanic) and 0.3% Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups have had at least one vaccination—that’s approximately 5.44 million loved ones! Moreover, since the start of vaccine distributions, more than 84.5% of older Americans (65-Plus adults) have been vaccinated—a dramatic shift in numbers that shows the wider community is doing their part to protect our elders and others by getting vaccinated.

This means that 5.44 million AAPI community members are on their way to resuming the activities that they miss—seeing family and friends near and far, gathering with the older generation, and traveling. And, vaccines are preventing nearly 100% of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID. This is proof that the vaccines are effective.

In a recent AARP panel, Dr. Adelaida M. Rosario shared about the unique challenges of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities in receiving information about the vaccine.  

“The AANHPI community is extremely diverse and therefore, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach with communications,” said Rosario. “The Department of Health and Human Services has been working on a number of print materials and virtual materials in the relevant languages so we can reach the community in their native tongue.” Rosario was referring to a new national campaign that includes outreach and advertising to more than 15 AAPI communities, called We Can Do This.

“In addition to this pandemic, there’s this heightened negative attention right now, focused on the Asian American community because of all the stereotypes and it’s terribly unfortunate,” Rosario added. “It becomes a ‘double pandemic’ essentially for all of our older Asian American community members because they’re dealing with all of this awful discrimination in addition to, layered with, this health crisis.”

Rosario acknowledged that there are side effects for some people but said that it is “small numbers” and “rare occurrences” of illnesses compared to the millions who are fully vaccinated and have experienced minor side effects but are otherwise “doing fine.”

“The benefits so far outweigh these small risks. The same kind of risks that any parents taking their small child to get their series of shots, you’re up against the same numbers,” Rosario said. “These rare occurrences are happening, but we’re really celebrating the successes that we’re seeing with the numbers of infections dropping and the successful inoculations at a population level that’s currently occurring not only in the United States but across the world.”

Before any vaccination, if you have questions, talk to your local healthcare provider or physician. If looking for additional resources, turn to your trusted local leaders. If you have access to the Internet and are able to search for information online, visit trusted sources like the CDC and visit to find vaccines near you.

Ultimately, one more person who has received the shot is one more step toward returning to life as it was before the pandemic. Encourage those around you to get vaccinated—from your college student to your grandparents, from your friends to your colleagues. With the country inching closer to 65% vaccinations this summer, there is tremendous progress that we are making together and next year should have a different outlook. By AAPI Heritage Month in 2022, the entire country can be vaccinated—we can do this!

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