‘We’re alarmed by the disproportionality’: Black L.A. County seniors have lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate, health director says

Local news

Months into a slower-than-expected and at times confusing vaccine rollout, Los Angeles County health officials on Monday said Black seniors have the lowest vaccination rate of all groups.

“Shockingly, Black residents have received only 3.5% of all administered doses, highlighting a glaring inadequacy in the vaccine rollout to date,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news briefing.

(L.A. County Department of Public Health)
(L.A. County Department of Public Health)

Roughly a quarter of doses in L.A. County were administered to white residents, another quarter were given to Latino residents, 18% went to Asian residents and 17% to people who identified as multiracial.

L.A. County has received a little more than 1.2 million doses as of last week, with 82% already in people’s arms.

Currently, only those 65 and older, health care workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in L.A. County.

Of all residents 65 and older, just 20% have been vaccinated so far.

And of the seniors who received at least one dose, Black, Latino and Native American residents have lower vaccination rates than white, Asian and Pacific Islander residents, according to data shared by the county Monday.

At 7.2%, Black residents have the lowest vaccination rate of all racial and ethnic groups 65 and older.

(L.A. County Department of Public Health)
(L.A. County Department of Public Health)

“We’re alarmed by the disproportionality we’re seeing in who has received the vaccine,” Ferrer said.

The health director said more needs to be done.

“This early data shows us that we need to make it much easier for Native American, Black and Latinx residents and workers to be vaccinated in their communities by providers they trust,” Ferrer said.

In L.A. County and beyond, Black people and Latinos have died of COVID-19 at higher rates than people of other races.

Yet, fewer Black and Hispanic people surveyed said they would take the COVID-19 vaccine.

A December survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center found that 40% of Black people said they would not get the coronavirus vaccine — much higher than the percentage of white and Hispanic people who weren’t willing to take the jab.

Experts have attributed it to distrust over past unethical practices, a history of discriminatory treatment and unequal access to health care. 

“The inequities we saw with respect to cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been reflected so far in the vaccine administration,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “This is completely unacceptable… frankly, I’m disappointed and I’m calling on all of us, our department, and our medical providers to fulfill their responsibility to ensure that the vaccine gets to those who need it the most.”

L.A. County plans to send out mobile teams next week to vaccinate seniors in housing developments in communities hit hardest by the virus. Health workers will also be sent out to help residents sign up for a shot if they’re eligible and help clear misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, Ferrer said.

(L.A. County Department of Public Health)
(L.A. County Department of Public Health)

For right now, vaccines are so limited that all county-operated vaccine sites are only vaccinating people who need their second dose for the rest of this week. But more doses are on the way, according to the health director.

L.A. County received more than 184,000 doses last week, and a large percentage of those were reserved for second doses. This week, county officials expect more than 218,000 doses, with 55% of them going towards second doses.

The county is planning to roll out the vaccine to staff at schools and child care centers, food, agriculture, emergency and law enforcement services “in a couple of weeks,” Ferrer said.

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