Covid-19 Vaccines Advancing Slowly Among Older Latinos and Blacks

Covid-19 vaccination rates among older blacks and Latinos lag behind older white people, health workers say, raising concerns about long-term exposure in communities at risk of more severe cases of the the illness.

Across the country and across age groups, vaccination rates are lower among minority groups than among whites, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nonprofit organization reported last week that vaccination rates among black and Latino seniors were lower than those of white seniors in South Carolina and Washington, the two states reporting complete data. Black and Latino people are also three times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with Covid-19 and about twice as likely to die from the disease, federal data shows.

“That’s a double whammy for older adults who are black or brown,” said Tricia Neuman, an executive with the Kaiser Family Foundation who studies health disparities related to Covid-19.

The slow launch of Covid-19 vaccines has made it difficult for many Americans who are eligible for vaccines to receive them. Public health experts say that for minority seniors, the challenge is compounded by higher barriers to accessing health care, including a lack of transportation, the Internet, or reliable information on vaccination protocols in some places.

Gladys Zevallos, at her home in Little Havana, said she couldn’t get a vaccination appointment on her own.

In Miami’s predominantly Latino Little Havana neighborhood, Gladys Zevallos, 77, said that when she called her doctor, they told her a nurse would call back with a vaccination appointment. Two months later, he had received no reply.

“A lot of people want to get vaccinated, but we don’t know how to schedule appointments or where to go,” Zevallos said.

Minorities are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, that can put them at higher risk for severe Covid-19 and make it difficult for them to travel to vaccination sites, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Prevention. Many live in multigenerational households or perform essential jobs that put them at higher risk of infection.

In Gilroy, California, a farming city where nearly 60% of Latinos are Latino, older residents have trouble getting to vaccination appointments because they don’t have internet access or aren’t comfortable with technology, he said. Jorge Mendoza, president of Nueva Vida, a community outreach group. .

Mr. Mendoza knocks on doors, explains how vaccination appointments work, and helps people fill out questionnaires online. He said he uses his own email address for people who don’t have one and forwards appointment confirmations by text message or on paper.

“It’s the best way we’ve found to do this,” Mendoza said. “Our people are being left out.”

Many doses go to large hospitals and pharmacies that do not operate facilities in many predominantly black and brown communities, said Ulysses Burley, founder of UBtheCURE LLC, a health and human rights consulting firm in Chicago.

“By the sheer location, people are at a disadvantage in terms of getting the vaccine,” he said.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has called the disparities in access to vaccines tragic and disturbing. He said in a recent interview with MSNBC that the Biden administration had set up vaccine centers and mobile clinics to inject minority communities.

A Healthy Little Havana social worker provides information about the Covid-19 vaccine to a resident.

Dr. Burley said CVS Health Body

The website froze when he tried to make a vaccination appointment for his 67-year-old father in Texas. You’ve tried calling but said they put you on hold for hours before being disconnected. He said his father still doesn’t have a date.

“Trying to schedule an appointment is like playing the lottery,” he said.

CVS said the site could be slower during peak hours or when vaccines are not available in a particular area. The company said it was taking steps, including outreach to patients, to address inequalities in underserved communities, particularly among black and Latino populations.

The Healthy Little Havana group helps minority seniors get vaccination appointments, often knocking on doors.

Minerva Garcia conducts health outreach activities in Texas for the elderly residents of the colonias, low-income neighborhoods that sometimes lack public services like electricity and running water. Many residents of the colony depend on public transportation, making it difficult to get to appointments, Garcia said.

Garcia said she visited a county-run clinic earlier this year in the city of McAllen in Hidalgo County, where the median household income is $ 40,000 and more than 90% of the people are Latino, according to the Office of the Census, after hearing that elderly Latino patients waited for hours in the cold to sign up for vaccines. He said he arrived around 5 a.m. to find dozens of people lining up, some huddled in blankets. The county registered only the first 100 people in line each day, Garcia said. Some elderly patients told her that they had returned several times to join the list.

Yurmeira Benal has helped nearly 450 elderly residents of Little Havana get vaccinations.

Such treatment increases mistrust among some older people, Garcia said: “They are left behind and have no voice.”

Eduardo Olivarez, Hidalgo’s administrative director of health and human services, said the county is prioritizing people 65 and older to receive the 16,000 doses they receive each week. He said people queuing outside the McAllen clinic knew their chances of receiving doses were slim.

“They are desperate. I feel bad. We are trying to do the best we can, ”he said. “It all comes down to math. The demand is much higher. ”

In Miami, Ms. Zevallos finally got a vaccination appointment with the help of Yurmeira Benal, a health outreach worker at the Healthy Little Havana community health group, and received her second dose on February 26. Benal said he has helped nearly 450 of his elderly neighbors in Little Havana get vaccinated.

During an outreach last week, Ms. Benal met with residents, including Arturo A. Suárez, 74, who had been unable to get an appointment on his own. She told him that she would help make an appointment at a local hospital.

“They are waiting for it,” Benal said.

Alerts and web browser tools can help you book an appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine. WSJ’s Joanna Stern caught up with Kris Slevens, an IT guy who has booked over 300 New Jersey senior appointments, to learn the best tricks for competing in the Vaccine Reserve Hunger Games. Photo Illustration: Emil Lendof for The Wall Street Journal

Write to Daniela Hernandez at [email protected]

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