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Vaccination rates show racial disparities; solving the gap discussed

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Snohomish Health District, County and Tribal leaders addressed people’s questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccine distribution and equity during a virtual town hall March 2.
As of Feb. 27, the Snohomish Health District has reported that 106,682 people have received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, and 53,557 people have received their second dose.
The county still has a limited supply of both vaccines and the capacity to administer them, which has led the county to continue to prioritize certain groups.
“This capacity is not necessarily directed at those who are at higher risk of acquiring COVID, but rather for those who are most likely to become severely ill and require hospitalization or die,” Health Officer for Snohomish Health District Dr. Chris Spitters said. “In this third wave and in the first wave, it was the hospitals filling up that really spinned things into an emergency.”
The current prioritization of vaccines is likely influencing the rate of vaccinations among certain races and ethnicities, as some populations have been vaccinated more than others.
“The highest rates (of vaccinations) have been in native Americans and in native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders,” Spitters said. “This is good news as these two groups really have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
The effect of COVID-19 among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders has been much more prevalent than among non-Hispanic whites, with five times more infections, four times more hospitalizations, and 2.6 times more deaths.
Prevalence among American Indians and Alaska Natives has been similarly disproportionate, with 2.3 times more infections, 2.2 times more hospitalizations, and 1.6 times more deaths than that of non-Hispanic Whites.
As of Feb. 14, the rate of vaccinations per 100,000 for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is 11562.9, and 15062.5 for American Indians and Alaska Natives. The rate of vaccinations among whites is 8769.4, 7812.1 among African Americans, and 7783.4 among Asians.
The group with the lowest vaccination rate is Hispanics with 3309.9 per 100,000. The rate of infections is 3.5 times more among Hispanics than white people, and the rate of hospitalizations is 1.9 times more. The rate of reported deaths due to COVID-19 among Hispanics is lower than that of white people, as the relative risk of death compared to white people is 60%.
“Part of this is due to differences in the age distribution of different groups,” Spitters said. “For instance, in non-Hispanic whites in Snohomish County, about 20% of the population is 65 and up, whereas among Latinos, it’s only about 5%.”
Even as more people are being vaccinated for COVID-19, public health officials still want those who have been vaccinated to keep washing their hands, wearing their masks, and keeping their distance.
“Think of the vaccine, like your bicycle helmet or seatbelt,” Spitters said. “It doesn’t eliminate the risk of injury or in this case of getting sick, but it does significantly reduce it.”
Snohomish County’s Director of Emergency Management Jason Biermann also stated that the county is working with community leaders to help underrepresented groups get vaccinated.
“We are working closely with the Executive’s Office of Social Justice to create and launch a community advocate program” Biermann said. “That will be similar to what was done during the census work, in which (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-led organizations will go out and have representation and be able to connect with community members, provide language support, and assist with registering people for their appointments.”

More to be eligible for vaccine later this month
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state will make more people eligible for vaccines starting Monday, March 22. This will include everybody who works in grocery stores, jails, law enforcement, food pro-cessing and other careers listed in Phase 1B-2.
Teachers and other K-12 staff became instantly eligible for vaccines last week because of a Biden Administration federal directive. Inslee said in the news conference he disagreed with letting teachers leapfrog ahead when they were going to be eligible under Phase 1B-2, which is opening March 22.
Child care providers also are newly eligible.
The state hopes to see more than 50 percent of seniors age 65 and up in Phase 1B-1 vaccinated at the time it opens the next wave.
Section by Tribune staff




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