As the race between variants and vaccinations presses on in California, recent data reveal another troubling aspect of the pandemic: the fact that vaccination rates are disproportionately affecting disadvantaged communities, including many communities of color.
Last month, the Department of Health Care Services released data showing how pervasive the disparities are for California’s nearly 14 million Med-Cal enrollees. Some of the numbers:
- For people 65 and older, a group highly vulnerable to COVID-19, 80% of all Californians had at least one vaccine dose, compared to just 66% of Medi-Cal enrollees
- For Asians and Pacific Islanders, 90% of all Californians had at least one vaccine dose, compared to 68% of Medi-Cal enrollees
- For Hispanics, 51% of all Californians had at least one vaccine dose, compared to 43% of Medi-Cal enrollees
- For African Americans, 48% of all Californians had at least one vaccine dose, compared to 30% of Medi-Cal enrollees
In other words, it seems that longstanding health disparities, including the outsized toll that COVID-19 has wrought on people of color, is carrying through during the vaccination period. To help address this, DHCS has released three pieces of collateral: a pocket card FAQ for parents of children eligible for the vaccine; a pocket card FAQ for people who might be vaccine hesitant due to pregnancy or long-term concerns; and flyers in English and Spanish encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Paired with any materials you are already using to encourage vaccination, these materials could be helpful in driving up the numbers of vaccinated among Medi-Cal enrollees. In the coming weeks, CHA will also launch a social media campaign aimed at increasing vaccination rates among all populations.
Medi-Cal enrollees often face barriers to care that individuals with other forms of health coverage do not. Getting a vaccination against COVID-19 should not be one of them. It’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to get as many Californians vaccinated as soon as possible, so we can help protect our loved ones from severe illness and save more lives with projections for the Delta variant showing continued spread and growth into October before leveling off.