Coronavirus vaccine disparity causes concern

Minorities fall behind

Vaccine inequity

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The numbers of the Arizona State Health Department’s website paint a pretty grim picture when it comes to who is getting the coronavirus vaccine, and who is not.

According to the numbers, 8.1% of those vaccinated at the state-run POD’s (points of distribution) are Hispanic. In Pima County it’s better, but not much: 13.8%.

For African Americans it’s 1.1% and 1.5%.

“I am continually frustrated by this lack of thinking outside the box to reach these communities,” said District 5 Pima County Supervisor Adelita Grijalva.

The state and county are trying to reach and vaccinate an older population, 75+, who in many cases don’t have access to a computer, a cell phone or the ability to navigate a confusing, complicated system to make an appointment.

But there is also the issue of trust.

“If you look historically, people of color have been guinea pigs for a lot of these vaccines in our history,” Grijalva said.

Many in the elder community remember those times and in some cases, may have participated; so trusting the system now is difficult, especially when a vaccine is involved.

“African American doctors, Spanish speaking doctors that can explain ‘you know I took this, this is why I did it’, making it personal I think is going to be really critical,” she said.

Some of the areas where they live are some of the hardest hit areas in the state such as zip codes 85706, 85713, and 85714.

They are also home to many essential workers who can’t stay home, become exposed and, in turn, expose their families.

“The take away for me,” she says “is one size fits all, one way fits all does not work for all.”

Pima County has begun to send mobile units into hard to reach, underserved areas to vaccinate them.

On a recent Saturday, the county held a pop-up clinic at Saint John’s Church which vaccinated 511 people.

They were mostly Hispanic and were 75+.

Even with a severe shortage now, the county is planning two more in South Tucson and Littletown.

The state of Arizona has acknowledged the problem but has put off an all-out effort for now.

“As we get more vaccine, we ill start to see more smaller, community based events,” said Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona State Health Director. “That is our goal, to get to those communities.”

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