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Why Do LA's Black And Latino Residents Have Lower Vaccination Rates?

A covid-19 vaccine station at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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L.A. health officials have expressed concerns about low vaccination numbers among health care workers in South L.A. and other communities of color. Those concerns are valid — preliminary numbers show Blacks and Latinos are receiving fewer vaccinations as compared to white and Asian Angelenos.

Some experts have attributed low vaccination numbers in more diverse neighborhoods to hesitancy and mistrust, especially among Black and brown communities (some of that mistrust is completely understandable, given the racist history of health care in the U.S.).

But Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of vaccine programs at Kedren Health, says the problem isn’t only hesitancy. It's also a lack of availability and access:

“What is most frustrating is, you may have heard me say What vaccine? We weren’t even offered a vaccine ... So misinterpreting lack of access for hesitancy was to me very offensive, because the Black and brown health care workers that came [to vaccine sites], came with their sleeves rolled up, and they were ready for a vaccination.”

Dr. Abraham says that straightforward messaging is the key to overcoming any doubts about the vaccine, and that partnerships with L.A. County offices, local elected officials, community-based organizations and faith leaders can help get useful information out.
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The county has released some demographic data on who has gotten vaccines so far, although there's a delay in reporting.

As of Jan. 23, those who received one or more doses of the vaccine, were:

  • 30.2% white (26% of county residents are white)
  • 29.4% Latino (49% of county residents are Latino)
  • 22.9% Asian (15% of county residents are Asian)
  • 4.6% Black (8% of county residents are Black)
  • 1.0% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (.4% of county residents are Native/Pacific Islander)
  • 0.4% American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 11.5% multiple or other race/ethnicity

(Our data on race/ethnic breakdown of L.A. County came from the Census).

It's important to note that most of the people who received the vaccine by late January were frontline health workers, the county says. However, if you look at the above data, it's clear that Black and Latino residents are underrepresented in vaccine counts, while white and Asian residents are overrepresented.

L.A. County officials say they are working to bring more vaccination sites to underserved communities and are making equity a priority.

Across the country, African Americans and Latinos are dying at higher rates of COVID-19 than their white neighbors. This is also true for L.A.'s Black community and other communities of color.

We covered death rates by race/ethnicity in this story in May.


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