Wide gaps in North Coast vaccination rates for minorities
Columbia County Public Health has released a vaccine equity plan outlining how public health leaders aim to address disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates among different racial and ethnic groups.
In the North Coast region containing Columbia, Lincoln, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, 72.1% of adults had received a COVID-19 vaccine as of Oct. 11.
Only 44% of American Indian/Alaska Native residents of the region had been vaccinated. Among Hispanics, only 44.6% had been vaccinated.
The local region isn't alone in having significant gaps in vaccination rates for different groups.
Statewide, the vaccination rates for Indigenous and Hispanic adults are more than 15 points lower than the rate for white adults.
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders had the highest vaccination rates in 12 of the 15 regional groups the Oregon Health Authority uses to publish vaccination and race data. Statewide, 95.3% of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults have been vaccinated, compared to 70% for white adults.
The county's vaccine equity plan outlines six factors that contributed to the gap among different groups. Two of those factors apply to most rural areas: physical distance to health care providers and lack of broadband access to find and schedule appointments.
The report also cites "mistrust and suspicion of governmental health recommendations and government-organized healthcare" and "misinformation about vaccine safety and efficacy (which) has circulated in local communication channels."
In the first months of the vaccine rollout, Columbia County received relatively few doses per capita. The report attributes that to the low number of healthcare workers living in Columbia County, which is one of few Oregon counties to not have a hospital.
The sixth factor cited by the public health department was the "deficiency of community-based organizations located in the county with a specific mission to serve racial and ethnic communities." The public health department said it would continue to provide vaccinations through partnerships with organizations and businesses, like school-based health centers, faith-based organizations, and the Columbia Economic Team. OHA provided local public health authorities with results from an agricultural employer survey, but only one local agricultural employer had responded to the survey.
Vaccination rates in Columbia County are highest in the Scappoose area, and drop in each zip code headed northwest in the county.
The number of vaccines administered each day has dropped now that all residents age 12 and older have been eligible for months, but dozens of residents are still vaccinated each day. A week after vaccines were approved for 12- to 15-year-olds, more than 300 Columbia County residents were receiving shots each day. In the first week of October, an average of 98 doses were administered to Columbia County residents each day.
Since vaccines became available in January 2021, fully vaccinated Columbia County residents have accounted for 8% of COVID-19 cases, 5% of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and none of the local COVID-19 deaths, according to the public health department.
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