Governor admits problems with vaccine rollout in Latino and Black communities
Even as the rate of new coronavirus cases falls, there are still troubling signs of the impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latino communities.
Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Sunday that state and local health officials have stumbled in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine equitably among Latino and Black communities in California.
Speaking at a mobile vaccination clinic in Inglewood, Newsom said the state needs to “do more and do better” to provide outreach and set up vaccine sites directly in the communities that have been hit hardest by the virus.
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“We’re not doing enough. We need to do significantly more programs like this,” he said. “We’ve got to get people back to work. We’ve got to get people back into church. And we’ve got to get people back into school.”
Of the 7.3 million doses administered in California, 2.9% have gone to Black residents, 16% to Latinos and 13% to Asian Americans, compared with 32.7% to white people, according to state data.
Those disparities are reflected to some degree in L.A. County, where 24% of Black residents 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with Latino seniors at 29% and Asian American seniors at 39%, compared with 43% among white seniors, according to county public health data.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death rate for Latinos is triple that of white people in the county, with a daily rate of 48 deaths per 100,000 residents compared with 16 deaths per 100,000 residents for white people, according to county data from mid-January. Black residents were dying at a rate of 23 deaths per 100,000 people.
Newsom, who is facing a recall campaign with nearly 1.1 million signatures, sought to illuminate the state’s efforts to vaccinate “hard-to-reach” and “disproportionately impacted” communities by visiting two sites Sunday, including the one in Inglewood and another in Boyle Heights.
“We recognize our responsibility to do more,” he said, commenting on a range of initiatives his office is involved in across the state. “We’re focusing on farmworkers. We’re down at Coachella Valley on an equity coalition collaborative focusing on farmworkers and pop-up sites in partnership with ranchers and with farm managers.”
L.A.’s Eastside, which is predominantly Latino, has suffered from among the highest rates of coronavirus infection in the county. Inglewood has also seen a high case rate among its majority Latino and Black population, with 1 in 9 residents becoming infected, according to county public health data.
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Only about 250 people were scheduled to be vaccinated Sunday at each of the mobile clinics Newsom visited, located at Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood and Ramona Gardens Recreation Center in Boyle Heights. The doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine came directly from the federal government as part of the allotment for the mass vaccination site at Cal State L.A. run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
There was plenty of demand at the Inglewood site, with about 70 people forced to join the waitlist due to limited supply, said Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer of Faithful Central Bible Church. He said those who were invited to make an appointment included members of his church and the surrounding community who are 65 or older.
State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) spoke at the event, asserting that the main barrier to vaccinating more people in the Black community is lack of access, not fear of the vaccine.
“It’s an awareness issue,” he said, noting that a recent vaccination clinic at Kedren Community Health Center in South Los Angeles seemed to draw more people from outside the area than from within the neighborhood.
“Three hundred people were in line. Five of them were African American. People were from Rolling Hills, Beverly Hills. How did they get the word out?” he said. “They seemed to know more than we do, so we have to do a better job of getting the word out.”
Newsom said in terms of raw numbers, California has now surpassed the number of vaccinations administered in Israel, which has the highest vaccination rate in the world. But California still has a long way to go in improving its per capita vaccination rate, hampered by a shortage in supply coming from the federal government.
Severe winter storms across the U.S. impeded the delivery of 702,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to California in recent days, Newsom said. Those delays forced officials to shut down several mass vaccination sites, including Disneyland and Dodger Stadium.
In Los Angeles, all six city-run vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, will resume operations Tuesday, according to the mayor’s office.
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.