13 Investigates areas with more COVID-19 deaths and fewer vaccines

BySarah Rafique KTRK logo
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Houston areas with more COVID-19 deaths and fewer vaccines
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Our investigation found a dozen zip codes east of downtown Houston have a higher mortality rate of 151 deaths per 100,000 residents, but the overall vaccination rate for those comm

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- 13 Investigates first reported how some of Harris County's most vulnerable neighborhoods are more in need of a COVID-19 vaccine, but have less access to receive one.

Now, we're taking a look at communities with a higher mortality rate and whether or not those neighborhoods are receiving the vaccine.

SEE ALSO: Houston-area residents 'hurting' in low income, minority areas without vaccines

Our investigation found a dozen zip codes east of downtown Houston have a higher mortality rate of 151 deaths per 100,000 residents, but the overall vaccination rate for those communities is 4.5%.

We wanted to look at where the vaccines are going and found 40% of Harris County's zip codes where the mortality rate isn't as high - with less than 150 deaths per 100,000 residents - and yet there is a higher percentage of the population that is vaccinated. The disparities are why doctors and clinics are advocating for leaders of the vaccination program to get the vaccines into the neighborhoods versus mass vaccination sites.

"We need them here. We have the people that are dying from COVID, the Hispanic population, the African Americans, the people of low income and low resources are here in Harris health. We need them here," said Glorimar Medina, the executive vice president of Harris Health System's Ambulatory Care Services, last month.

INTERACTIVE: Want to know which communities have a higher mortality rate but fewer people vaccinated? Explore the map for those details broken down by zip code. On mobile device? Click here for a full screen experience.

Dr. Erica Villalobos, a physician at HOPE Clinic Aldine, said in her neighborhood, residents sometimes don't have access to transportation, internet or other resources needed to sign up for a vaccine and get a dose.

"The risk of continuing to not have access to the vaccine is still increased risk of becoming infected with COVID and succumbing to the serious complications associated with COVID, including death," she said.

In the 77039 zip code where her clinic is located, the mortality rate is 109.2 deaths per 100,000 residents and only 2.7% of residents have been vaccinated, according to an analysis of city data.

There are more than 28,000 residents who live in that neighborhood, but only 600 vaccines have been allocated since the state started doling out vaccines nine weeks ago. HOPE Clinic Aldine was approved by the state to provide the vaccine, but they have not received any doses yet.

"We all want what's best for the community, and what's best for the community right now is to be able to vaccinate," Villalobos said.

Countywide, 3,081 residents have died of COVID-19. The city and county provides information on the number of deaths within each zip code daily.

Zip code-level vaccination data for Houston and Harris County isn't available on the city or county's website. The latest data we received on the number of residents vaccinated in each zip code was current through Feb. 4, 2021.

The lag in data provides some limitations to our analysis. As of this week, 351,391 Harris County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 126,632 are fully vaccinated.

We only received data on how many people were vaccinated per zip code for 67% of vaccinated residents in Harris County.

The state has said it would like agencies to collect better data on vaccination. For example, race and ethnicity data for 40% of Texas residents who received a vaccine is unknown. It's slightly in Harris County, where race and ethnicity is unknown for just 28% of vaccinated residents.

"[It] makes it hard to know whether the entities are really reaching out into those communities," said Dr. David Lakey, a member of the Texas Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel.

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