Infections Up in DMV, Vaccinations Remain Low in Black Communities

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By Howard University News Service

WASHINGTON — Like much of the nation, cities and counties in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have seen rapidly rising coronavirus infections, particularly in those communities with the lowest vaccination rates, according to health departments.

African Americans, according to data, consistently remain the lowest vaccinated population in the region. 

The District of Columbia has had a 38 percent increase in the average number of reported daily cases over the past two weeks to 296 cases per day, according to the DC Health Department.

The number of deaths has remained low, with no deaths reported in the last week, Meanwhile, hospitalization rates from coronavirus have fallen 9%, officials reported.  

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Currently 59% of Washington residents are fully vaccinated, health department officials reported, but the numbers are much lower in Wards 7 and 8, two predominantly Black communities.   

 The most glaring disparity is among Black children and other children in D.C.     According to a Sept.16 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72% of white children between the ages of 12 and 17 and 83% of Hispanic children have been vaccinated compared to only 24% of Black children.

Meanwhile, Maryland, has been averaging  approximately  1,200 Covid-19 cases daily over the past two weeks, a 3% increase in daily average of hospitalizations, and an average of 16 deaths.   An estimated 62% of Maryland residents have been fully, compared to approximately 50.6% of African Americans. 

Dr. Cliff Mitchell, director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health, said the lower number of vaccinations in African-American neighborhoods have been a concern.

 “We’ve definitely seen disparities in Black communities,” Mitchell said. “We’ve also seen disparities in rural communities in terms of vaccine uptake as well compared with urban communities.

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“So, we have been and continue to focus on disparities in case rates in vaccination update and will continue to do so.”

Dr. Gregory W. Branch, director for Health and Human Services in Baltimore County low vaccination rates in Black and Latinx neighborhoods can be attributed to several reasons, “including distrust of governmental and/or health institutions based on past experiences lack of information to address questions/concerns, language barriers, concerns around citizenship status, lack of access to vaccination sites.”  

In Virginia, the state has averaged 3,624 cases daily, an 8%increase over the past two weeks, according to state health department officials.   Daily hospitalizations have increased by 15% and the state is averaging 29 deaths Covid-related deaths daily. 

An estimated 59% of the population is vaccinated, health department officials said.  Vaccinated African Americans, however, are an estimated 43% percent, officials said.

COVID-19 vaccinations stall in Washington

Consequently, Black Richmond resident make up nearly 70% of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and 62% of deaths, Jackie Lawrence, the Richmond Health District’s  director of health equity, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Again, one of the biggest disparities in Richmond, which is 50.6% Black, is among children ages 12 to17.  One week into Richmond Public Schools returning to in-person learning, the city’s health district reported white children ages 12 to 17 have up to three times the vaccination rates of Black children of the same age.

Cat Long, public information officer for the Richmond and Henrico Health districts, said the department has seen a dramatic drop off in vaccinations since they became available in February and March.

“We went from giving 5,000 vaccinations in one day to now averaging 10 to 15, on a good day,” Long said.

Consequently, the health district is doubling down on getting Black people vaccinated, she said.

“We’ve done a lot of work at the health district to make vaccines accessible and then also to make information about vaccines accessible,” she said.  “We measure the data of which census tracts as having the lowest vaccine uptake and we make sure to embed vaccine opportunities in those census tracks or near those census tracts.” 

Long said she recognized the distrust among communities of color regarding vaccines, but she said the hesitation to get vaccinated belies facts.

“I want to just give you this one statistic of just really how vaccines are working,” Long said.   “Of the people who’ve been vaccinated .4% to less than 1% point have gotten COVID .017% have been hospitalized end .0038% have died.”

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