Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted that state and local health authorities had struggled to administer the COVID-19 vaccine equitably among California's Latino and Black populations.
Speaking at an Inglewood mobile vaccination clinic, Newsom said the state wants to "do more and do better" and directly provide outreach and set up vaccine sites in the areas that have been most seriously affected by the outbreak.
“We’re not doing enough. We need to do significantly more programmes like this,” he added.“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 distributed in California, according to state statistics, 2.9 percent went to black residents, 16 percent to Latinos, and 13 percent to Asian Americans, compared to 32.7 percent to white citizens.
To a degree, those inequalities are expressed in L.A. County, where, according to county public health statistics, 24 percent of Black residents aged 65 and older have received at least one injection of the vaccine, with Latino seniors at 29 percent and Asian American seniors at 39 percent, compared to 43 percent of white seniors.
Meanwhile, according to county statistics from mid-January, the COVID-19 mortality rate for Latinos is triple that of white people in the county, with a regular rate of 48 deaths per 100,000 residents, compared to 16 deaths per 100,000 residents for white people. At a rate of 23 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, Black residents were dead.
Newsom, battling a potentially 1.1 million petition recall effort, tried to shed light on the state's attempts to vaccinate "hard-to-reach" and "disproportionately impacted" populations by visiting two places on Sunday, including one in Inglewood and another in East L.A.
“We recognise our responsibility to do more,” he said, commenting on a range of initiatives across the state that his office is involved in. “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.”
Among the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the county, East L.A., which is primarily Latino, has suffered. According to county public health information, Inglewood has also seen a high case rate in its majority Latino and Black population, with 1 in 9 people being sick.
At both of the mobile clinics visited by Newsom, based at the Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood and Ramona Gardens Recreation Center in East L.A., only about 250 people were expected to be vaccinated Sunday. The doses of the Pfizer vaccine came directly from the federal government as part of the distribution for the mass vaccination site at Cal State Los Angeles run by the Federal Emergency
At the Inglewood site, there was plenty of interest, with around 70 individuals forced to join the waitlist because of insufficient availability, said Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer of the Faithful Central Bible Church. He said the members of his congregation and the local neighbourhood who are 65 or older included those who were asked to make an appointment.
At the event, State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) spoke, asserting that lack of access, not fear of the vaccine, is the biggest hurdle to vaccinating more people in the Black community.
"It's an awareness issue," he said, adding that at Kedren Community Health Center in South Los Angeles, a new vaccine clinic appeared to attract more patients from outside the city than from inside the community.
“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 California has already exceeded the number of vaccines administered in Israel, which has the highest vaccine rate in the world, in terms of raw figures. But California also has a long way to go to increase the per capita vaccine rate, plagued by a federal government supply shortage.
In recent days, extreme winter storms across the United States have delayed the supply of 702,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to California, Newsom said. Those delays caused authorities, including Disneyland and Dodger Stadium, to close down many mass vaccination locations.
In Los Angeles, according to the mayor's office, all six city-run vaccination centres, including Dodger Stadium, will start operations on Tuesday.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr