Releasing new data, Los Angeles County health officials acknowledged Friday that Latino and Black residents continue to be vaccinated at a significantly lower level than whites and Asian Americans, a disparity the county’s vaccine chief called “unjust and unacceptable.”
More than 1.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across L.A. County, but disparities continue to mar the vaccine rollout, according to county data released Friday.
The figures released by the county Department of Public Health show that less than 25% of Black residents age 65 and over, roughly 30,000 people, have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s an increase of 18% from Feb. 9, when only 3.5% of Black residents had been inoculated, the county data show.
Meanwhile, about 29% of eligible Latino seniors have received the shot, a 14-point jump from earlier in the month.
On the other hand, nearly 43% of white senior residents have received at least one shot, as have roughly 39% of Asian Americans, the latest data show.
The county has been redoubling its efforts ever since local health officials pointed out steep inequities in vaccine access, especially among seniors in communities of color.
During a virtual briefing Friday, Dr. Paul Simon, the county health department’s chief science officer, presented the latest data and a map of vaccination rates across the county, which show that the problem persists.
“There are marked inequities in vaccination coverage across the county,” Simon said. “The findings are deeply concerning and provide further illustration of the deeply rooted health inequities that exist in our society.”
When mapped, the latest data show glaring disparities in vaccination rates by neighborhood. Those who live in some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in L.A. County are receiving the vaccine at a much higher rate than lower-income communities of color, the data show.
Cities and neighborhoods with 25% of residents or more already inoculated with at least one dose of the vaccine include Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Bradbury, Brentwood, Century City, Cheviot Hills and Rolling Hills Estates.
By contrast, areas with the lowest coverage rates — 9% or less of residents vaccinated — included South L.A. and East L.A., several parts of the San Gabriel Valley, the east San Fernando Valley and the Antelope Valley, as well as several pockets near the ports and below West Hollywood, Simon said during Friday’s news conference.
The chief science officer acknowledged that an important limitation in the data, however, is that the percentage vaccinated is “based on the total population in each city and community,” not how much of the region is eligible right now, e.g. 65 and older, or a frontline health care worker.
“Despite these limitations, the findings clearly indicate very significant inequities in the distribution of vaccine to date,” Simon said. “These inequities are unjust and unacceptable and demand renewed efforts to address them.”
Simon said the county is planning a number of steps to address the inequities, such as prioritizing more doses for vaccine providers with the lowest vaccination coverage rates and reserving more vaccine appointments for residents in those under-served communities.
Issues with vaccine supply also remain, Simon added, although the county-operated vaccination sites were largely spared from the weather-related delivery problems that forced the Los Angeles city vaccination sites to close this week.