Black and Latino Connecticut residents have been less likely to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses than white residents, state numbers released Wednesday show.
According to state data, about 19% of Black residents 75 and older had been vaccinated as of Feb. 3, compared to 52% of Asian residents, 35% of Hispanic residents and 31% of white residents. Of the total vaccine doses directed to people 75 and older, about 2% had gone to Black residents, with another 2% going to Hispanic residents and about 60% to white residents.
Vaccine disparities are particularly pressing, officials say, given that Black and Latino people in Connecticut and nationwide have been substantially more likely to contract and to die from COVID-19 than white residents.
“As we open up the vaccine program to individuals 65 and over, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that vaccine is reaching the communities and populations who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” acting public health commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said in a statement.
Connecticut had previously released town-by-town vaccine numbers — which had pointed to the likelihood of racial disparities - but had not broken down the distribution by race.
In a press release, the Department of Public Health warned that data collection has been uneven and that the numbers contain irregularities. For example, nearly a fifth of doses are listed as having gone to people of “other” races, despite that category making up only a small portion of the Connecticut population.
Still, these numbers make clear that Connecticut has experienced the same disparities recorded across the nation, with white people more likely to have received vaccines than other groups.
Experts say these disparities owe to various factors, including disparities in technology and transportation, language barriers, and vaccine hesitancy among certain groups
State officials say they have attempted to target vaccine doses to towns and cities with a high “social vulnerability index,” meaning those with high levels of poverty, low access to transportation and crowded housing. They have also expanded the state’s vaccine help line (877-918-2224), to help residents with limited access to technology.
Still, many of Connecticut’s largest cities rank among the municipalities with the lowest rates of vaccination so far.
“There are a lot of people who don’t know how to navigate the things that we’ve arranged, or they’re very tech-savvy, but they’re just too tired to figure it out,” Sarah Lewis, Hartford HealthCare’s vice president of health equity, said last month. “In order for any process to be equitable, we have to think about how our patients have to be met where they are, and that means having as many points of access as possible.”
Alex Putterman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.