COVID-19 vaccine data analysis found 'warning flags' for racial equity

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new data analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found alarming racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations in the 16 states currently reporting such data.

Governor Gavin Newsom during his Monday media briefing previewed an upcoming shift in the California's vaccine prioritization strategy.

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The governor hinted the new strategy would be rolled out by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly later this week.

"This will allow us to scale up much more quickly, adapt vaccines to impacted communities, much more expeditiously with a framework always on equity," the Governor said.

Instead of prioritizing cohorts like agricultural workers and first responders, the state would move to an age-based system that the governor said would allow for more equitable vaccine distribution.

"Black and Hispanic people accounted for a smaller share of vaccinations relative to their share of cases and deaths in those states, as well as compared to their total population in many of those states," said Samantha Artiga, vice president and director of racial equity and health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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The number of small businesses across the country has plummeted by 22 percent, or in other words 3.3 million businesses are gone for good, according to the latest data from a national population survey.

Artiga co-authored a recently published KFF analysis that found of the 16 states currently releasing vaccination data by race and ethnicity, white residents are being vaccinated at significantly higher rates than Black and Latino residents-in many cases two to three times higher.

National and state data have shown these groups are more likely to be frontline workers and come in contact with the virus. They are also more likely to die from COVID-19 after a positive test result.

"There potentially are a range of factors that could contribute to increased barriers to vaccination for people of color and low income people. A number of those could be access-related barriers. For example, people of color have higher uninsured rates, which means they're less likely to have an existing relationship with a healthcare provider may be more concerned about potential costs, even though the vaccine will be free. But then there are a variety of other factors to consider things like transportation, flexibility in working arrangements," Artiga said.

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California is not one of the states releasing COVID-19 vaccination data sorted by race and ethnicity.

Of the Bay Area counties, to date, only Contra Costa County is reporting vaccination data broken down by race and ethnicity.

ABC7 News crunched the numbers and found similar trends to the KFF analysis.

Hispanic and Latino residents in Contra Costa County made up 32% of coronavirus cases, but only 13% of the people vaccinated in the county so far identify as Hispanic or Latino.

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Compare that to white residents which, make up 23% of the county's COVID-19 cases, but 30% of the people vaccinated so far are white.

ABC7 News reached out to the Contra Costa County Department of Health, but did not hear back.

Artiga warns vaccine rollout is still in its early stages, with mostly frontline workers being eligible for the vaccine, and it may be too early to draw conclusions. However, she said states should be focused on equitable distribution.

"Keeping an eye toward equity is going to be key for mitigating the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic for people of color, and for preventing widening health disparities going forward," she said.

The KFF analysis based on state numbers also emphasized comprehensive and standardized data across states will be "vital" to ensuring equitable access and take up for the vaccine.

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