Equity Issues Remain With Vaccine Distribution in L.A. County

Vaccination site at Cal State L.A. | Photo courtesy of L.A. County

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says it is working to address persisting racial inequities in vaccine distribution.  

The rate of vaccination among white and Asian residents in L.A. County continues to be significantly higher than that among Black/African American and Latino/Latinx residents, according to the Department of Public Health. Black/African Americans have received 5.2% of vaccinations administered, while accounting for 9% of the 16 and older population. Latinx residents received 23% of vaccinations, while accounting 46% of the 16 and older population.

“There are marked inequities in vaccination coverage across the county,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Friday. “These inequities are unacceptable, and demand renewed efforts to ensure access to vaccines for people in the hardest-hit communities. We are further engaging our community partners to identify additional strategies and resources to ensure a more equitable distribution of vaccines that quickly improves vaccination rates across Black, Brown, and Native communities.” 

People 65 and older account for more than 50% of those vaccinated to date. Among this population, 42.5% have been vaccinated. Twenty-four percent of Black/African Americans 65 and older, 29% of Latino/Latinx 65 and older, and 32% American Indian/Alaska Native residents 65 and older have been vaccinated compared to 39% of Asians 65 and older, and 43% of white residents 65 and older.

Data also reveals disparities in vaccination rates between poor and wealthier neighborhoods. Cities and neighborhoods like Bradbury, San Marino, La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Century City, and Rolling Hills Estates have vaccinated 25% of their residents. By contrast, South L.A., East L.A., several parts of the San Gabriel Valley, east San Fernando Valley and Antelope Valley have the lowest vaccination rates — less than 9% of residents.

However, during a virtual briefing Friday, L.A. County Public Health Chief Science Officer Dr. Paul Simon said these percentages are “based on the total population in each city and community,” no how many residents in these areas are eligible for the vaccine currently.

“Despite these limitations, the findings clearly indicate very significant inequities in the distribution of vaccine to date,” he said. “These inequities are unjust and unacceptable and demand renewed efforts to address them.”

To address the issue, Public Health is expanding mobile vaccination units to better serve the needs of seniors and others who have limited mobility. The department also says it is mobilizing community health workers with information in multiple languages on available vaccination services to provide assistance to local residents in underserved communities for scheduling appointments and accessing vaccination services. Nearly 400 sites in L.A. County are administering the vaccines, including federally qualified health clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and large capacity vaccination sites.

Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday acknowledged that the state has struggled to equitably vaccinate Black and Latino Californians.

“We’re not doing enough,” he said at a mobile vaccination site in Inglewood. The governor said the state needs to do more to set up vaccination sites in communities that have been the most impacted.

At this time, vaccination continues to be only open to healthcare workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, and people who are 65 or older which account for approximately 2.2 million people in L.A. County. Those eligible for the vaccine will continue to be eligible if they’ve not yet been vaccinated. Three additional sectors become eligible for vaccine starting on March 1; education and childcare, food and agriculture, and first responders and law enforcement.

Last week, the county received 262,925 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 1.6 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the county. Of those vaccinated, 471,162 people have received second doses.  

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