New state data reveals COVID-19 vaccine inequity

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CLEVELAND (WJW) — New data from the Ohio Department of Health reveals COVID-19 vaccine inequity regarding race and ethnicity.

According to the vaccine figures updated daily on the ODH website more than 1 million white Ohioans have received a vaccine. The combined total of all other categories of groups based on race and ethnicity in the state is less than 400,000 vaccinations.

Thursday’s data shows African-Americans have received 71,599 vaccinations. Asians account for 27,855, Hispanic and Latino groups have received 16,879. Other larger vaccine totals include “unknown” at 109,831 and “other” at 121,951 vaccinations.

The Ohio Department of Health said its working to ensure equitable access to vaccines for vulnerable and underserved communities.

“In the past week, approximately 30% of doses (about 50,000) have been allocated in these areas, which are home to 18% of all Ohioans,” said Alicia Shoults of the communications office for ODH.

Dr. Melissa Li-Ng of the Cleveland Clinic called the data a problem and concern.

“We currently have five vaccination sites across our hospitals in Northeast Ohio and the one in the city of Cleveland is at our main hospital and we are planning to open another community vaccination site in the city of Cleveland,” said Dr. Li- Ng Medical Director of International and Medical Operations.

University Hospitals Dr. Robyn Strosaker said they have expanded vaccine sign-up availability to those who qualify even if they are not a previously established patient.

The UH vaccination clinic is in Shaker Heights. Dr. Strosaker said lack of parking remains a complicating barrier to host a vaccine clinic on its main campus in Cleveland but they are planning for an additional vaccine clinic location.

“We’ve got groups working to see if we can help provide transportation, help ensure people have access to scheduling both by phone number if they don’t have access to our website,” said Dr. Strosaker the Chief Operating Officer at University Hospitals.

Earlier this month United Pastors in Mission (UPM) of Greater Cleveland demanded that churches be used as vaccination sites in order to increase vaccine access for minorities.

The UPM President Rev. Larry Macon Sr., pastor of Mt. Zion Oakwood Village said he participated in a faith leaders’ virtual event Thursday with the White House that addressed the issue.

“It’s a very hurtful thing for us as pastors because we’re burying these people and we’re burying them at an astronomical number,” Rev. Macon said of the disparity. “This has to stop; we cannot continue to allow our people to die at this outrageous rate.”

ODH said it started issuing equity guidance to vaccine providers encouraging weekend and evening vaccinations and being flexible with documentation accepted to verify age.

A pop-up vaccination clinic will be held in partnership with ODH at Elizabeth Baptist Church Friday in Cleveland. It’s expected to vaccinate 200 pre-registered community members.

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