County Officials Discuss Racial Disparity When It Comes To Local Vaccinations

County Officials Discuss Racial Disparity When It Comes To Local Vaccinations

Nico Payne

As more vaccination sites ramp up across the county, many are pointing out the disparities we are seeing when it comes to race and who is being vaccinated.

In a recent city council meeting, Kim Saruwatari, the Director of Public Health for Riverside County addressed councilmembers of Coachella on recent data when it comes to the demographics of who is being vaccinated.

“When we look across the county at the percent of the population vaccinated, we have vaccinated about 11% of our white population and about 3% of our Latinx population, so that is a big discrepancy,” said Saruwatari.

Saruwatari explaining why we may be seeing these types of numbers.

“Some of that is because of the phase system that we are using. when we look at our healthcare workforce that skews more towards the Caucasian demographic, but also when we look at 65 and older, that also skews towards the caucasian demographic,” said Saruwatari.

Organizers with The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation share how they are trying to reach more of the Latino population.

“We’re talking about equity and equity means giving everyone a fair and just chance at being healthy. that means we have to remove the barriers of access to this vaccine,” said Conrado E. Barzaga, CEO of Desert Healthcare.

Some of those barriers centered around education and access to technology.

“Digital divide, we are facing language barriers, we’re facing this reality that this are people that are working and cannot stop working,” explained Barzaga.

Moving forward county officials say a third-party administrator, Blue Shield will be taking over the allocation of vaccines, with a focus on reaching underserved areas.

“We have been told that they are going to be very committed to looking at performance, but also looking at measures of equity, so geography served, patient population,” explained Saruwatari.

Currently, in the county, there are 218 providers that have been approved to distribute the vaccine, and in the coming weeks when Blue Shield takes over officials expect that number to decrease as they focus on creating a state network for distribution.

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