In the first month of administering coronavirus vaccinations, the portion of white Coloradans who have received a COVID-19 vaccination is more than triple that of Hispanic Coloradans, more than twice that of Black Coloradans and 50% higher than that of Asian Coloradans.
The differences in vaccination rates illustrates another way minorities have been disproportionately affected by the novel pandemic and the response to it.
Around one in every 16 white Coloradans has received the vaccine so far, with only about one in every 50 Hispanic Coloradans and only one in every 35 Black Coloradans.
The first look at differences in vaccination rates comes in response to public records requests submitted to the state health department by The Gazette. Previously, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment had publicly released only the total number of vaccinations administered statewide.
“We are proud that we have been able to get vaccines out as quickly as the federal supply chain allows, but we do want to note: we are actively pursuing additional tactics to be equitable in vaccine distribution,” a CDPHE spokesperson wrote in an email about the newly released data.
The disparities in vaccination rates among different ethnic groups in the state come after nearly a year of data showing higher rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths among Black and Hispanic Coloradans.
Recently, Black Coloradans have been between 17% and 25% more likely than white Coloradans to become infected, and Hispanic Coloradans have been between 93% and 136% more likely to become infected — relative risks that have come down since the early part of the pandemic, when they were even higher. Black and Hispanic Coloradans have not been at a significantly higher relative risk of death due to COVID-19, but early in the pandemic they were.
The newly released data includes the number of vaccines administered by age group, ethnicity and geographic region.
The age breakdown shows more of the vaccine going to older Coloradans, as planned. About 35% of the vaccinations have been administered to Coloradans over the age of 60, who represent 21% of the state’s population.
And while Colorado’s white population is older than the state’s Black and Hispanic population, if vaccinations were administered equally among age groups, it would mean white Coloradans would have received the vaccine at a rate only about 20% more, not more than double.
Some areas in the state have higher or lower vaccination rates, but the range of variation is smaller than the variation across ethnic groups. El Paso County has the lowest vaccination rate among counties in the state with more than 100,000 residents.
The state health department spokesperson wrote that specific programs, some that have already begun and others that are still in the works, aim to increase vaccination rates in communities of color.
“We are engaging community-based organizations and have already had community clinics in Center and San Luis, and Denver, for example, and have plans for more,” the spokesperson wrote.
The agency is helping people without transportation coordinating rides to get vaccinations, the spokesperson wrote, as well as providing information to communities of color about the safety and efficacy of vaccines and planning a marketing campaign for hard-to-reach communities.