SoCal groups hardest hit by the pandemic are lagging in receiving COVID-19 vaccine, data shows

People of color in Southern California counties are getting the coronavirus vaccine at rates disproportionately lower than their population so far, numbers from county health departments show.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In Los Angeles County alone, the death rate among Latinos skyrocketed 1,000% since November. Now, groups hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic are also lagging in vaccine distribution.

"At first, it was a general access problem for the entire country," said Dr. Fola May, health equity researcher at UCLA Health.

According to the latest data obtained by Eyewitness News, in L.A. County, Black residents make up about 4.6% of people who have received vaccine doses and about 8% of the population. Latinos make up about 29% vaccine doses and about 48% of the population. While white residents make up a larger percentage of vaccine doses and lower percentage of the population.

There's a similar trend in Riverside, Ventura and Orange counties.

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"Now that we're seeing more vaccines arrived to more states and cities, we're seeing that it's actually more at the local level," said Dr. May. She describes the problem as threefold: information, trust and access.

"For example, we need to have vaccines distributed in places where people of color live," she said, adding, that times should also be more flexible. "Because a lot of the essential workers, especially in Los Angeles, are Black and brown individuals, we need to think about the timing of when we make these vaccines accessible, they need to be offered on weekends and after hours."

There's also the longstanding issue of distrust due to health injustices.

"We are going to have to do a better job of spreading the right information about the vaccine, and also enlisting trusted individuals to share about the importance of getting vaccinated," said Dr. May.

She tackles the challenges of mistrust and misinformation through her research and one conversation at a time.

"Help them understand that this is a true privilege that we have right now to take advantage of this vaccine, and that we can protect ourselves and our families," said Dr. May.

California has not yet released data on vaccine distribution by race and ethnicity for the entire state. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Secretary of Health and Human Services, outlined the state's efforts, including possible financial incentives to vaccination partners in order to reach those in the most vulnerable communities.

"We will continue to work to make sure whatever data is released, that we see it as a starting point, something to improve on. And our focus on equity and vaccinations will help us track how well we do," said Dr. Ghaly.
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