New numbers show Black, Hispanic communities under-vaccinated

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The head of Houston's health department and a member of Texas' Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel says in addition to the state's mass vaccination sites, cities also need a plan in place to vaccinate more people in communities of color.

"I think people are beginning to pay more attention to it," Houston Health Department Director Stephen Williams told 13 Investigates' Ted Oberg. "But we, as a health department, are pivoting. We can't wait. We have to make sure that we don't wait until the third or fourth quarter to make sure people of color get vaccinated."

As of Monday, data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows race and ethnicity information is not available for 46% of the 1.8 million Texans who received at least one dose of the vaccine.

"(It) makes it hard to know whether the entities are really reaching out into those communities," said panel member Dr. David Lakey, vice-chair of Health Affairs and chief medical officer at the University of Texas System. "So I think one of those opportunities to improve is to make sure that we have the data we need to be able to measure how well we are doing as we also work with the local health departments and hear from them and the community about how the community is doing."

The data is slightly better specifically in Harris County, but demographics are still not available for 36% of county residents who received a vaccine.

The data that is available shows 48.3% of vaccinated residents in Houston and Harris County are white, 13.4% are Asian, 12.45 are Black, 11.3% are Hispanic or Latino and 14% is listed as "other," according to city data. When comparing those percentages with the population of each race countywide, more white and Asian residents are being vaccinated compared to Hispanic and Black residents.

Older communities are also concerned about access. During a news conference Monday, Williams said the city's department for aging residents received more than 70,000 calls. and in order to follow up on them, there is currently a hold on adding more people to the waitlist.

"Demand continues to far exceed supply, but things will get better because we know more vaccine is on the way," Williams said. "This week our health department is distributing over 9,000 first doses to the most vulnerable. We are prioritizing approximately 5,300 doses for our area agency on aging, 2,400 for providers in vulnerable communities and 1,300 for our previously scheduled appointments."

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Still, eight weeks into the state's allocation plan, residents in predominantly underserved minority communities continue reaching out for help.

Our 13 Investigates team is looking at areas of our community that have no vaccine providers in their communities and feel shut out of the vaccine process. Later this week, we're taking you to parts of Harris County where people feel left out and forgotten. Watch the full investigation at 10 p.m. Thursday on ABC13.

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