Disproportionate COVID-19 vaccine access in CA impacting some ethnic groups, data shows

Zach Fuentes Image
Thursday, December 21, 2023
COVID-19 vaccine access in CA impacting some ethnic groups: data
Data shows some ethnic groups continue to be hit harder than others when it comes to accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The new, fast-growing JN.1 COVID-19 variant continues to have health officials concerned nationally and locally.

Yet, numbers are showing fewer people are getting the latest COVID-19 vaccine.

The data shows some ethnic groups continue to be hit harder than others.

Still health officials say not enough people are getting the latest vaccine statewide and here in the Bay Area.

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Data from the California Department of Public Health shows 18 percent of all residents in Alameda County are up to date on vaccinations as of December 4th.

San Francisco County saw 21% of its residents up-to-date and 19% in Santa Clara County.

Though the numbers vary among counties, they share one thing in common.

"Our Latinx population and African/African-ancestry populations have even lower rates," said Dr. Monika Roy, assistant health officer for the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.

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Roy said only 9% of Latinos and 11% of African/African Ancestry individuals are up to date with COVID Vaccinations.

Asian Americans have a higher percentage at 19% and white individuals are the highest at 22%.

Officials say vaccine fatigue could be one of the reasons, but that's not all.

"This is the first year that the vaccine has been commercialized," Roy said. "We know that for some individuals, it may be harder to access the vaccine."

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This resonates particularly with underinsured and uninsured people.

Though the CDC does have the Bridge Access Program to serve more people, UCSF infectious disease Dr. Monica Gandhi said not everyone is getting the access needed.

"It's really hard to get these vaccines. Pharmacies, they need stock, they need availability from the Biden administration, and they need to be able to administer them, and they're not getting the supply," she said.

Santa Clara County says it's been taking different measures to make sure pharmacies and individuals are able to take advantage of the Bridge Access Program.

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"(We're) doing some secret shopper action here at the health department where we're calling pharmacies that receive vaccine through the Bridge Access Program, and making sure that it's easy for clients to call and get the vaccine and that they're not facing hurdles," Dr. Roy said, "If we find anything, we're actually working with the pharmacies and working with the state to try to address those issues."

The type of work Dr. Gandhi says has to continue in order to serve under vaccinated communities.

"For those who are not insured, for those who are undocumented -- because there are people who are undocumented in this country, and thus do not qualify for public insurance -- that we should give lifesaving treatments like vaccines to these populations," she said. "That was the promise, that was what was supposed to happen. It's not happening, and I hope that that will happen next season because it's not happening this one and we had to keep on rallying as public health people and as infectious disease doctors to make that happen."

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