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HamCo. is second-best county in Ohio for vaccinating African Americans, but disparities still exist

Posted at 1:51 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 18:03:14-05

Although Hamilton County has the second-highest rate of vaccinating African Americans in the state, disparities still exist among its neighborhoods, county leaders said Wednesday.

Of the people who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 12.67% are African American, according to Ohio Department of Health data. About 7.21% of the county’s Black population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, data says.

Hamilton County Public Health has been intentional about reaching the Black community, and public health leaders have been taking 20% of the county’s vaccine supply into communities where disparities are the greatest, such as Forest Park, Lincoln Heights, North College Hill and Woodlawn, according to Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus.

This Ohio Department of Health chart shows which counties in Ohio have the highest rate of vaccinating African Americans.

Public health officials are vaccinating people at pop-up sites, in churches and, most recently, from a van. Officials inoculated 60 people in Woodlawn on Tuesday from the van, which Hamilton County Public Health purchased in November with CARES Act dollars.

ZIP code-level data from the Ohio Department of Health show people from ZIP codes in predominantly white areas are getting the COVID-19 vaccine at a higher rate than people who live in ZIP codes in predominantly Black areas.

“We celebrate the people who are getting vaccinated, but we are very troubled by the inequity,” Driehaus said.

The neighborhoods in which the most people are getting the vaccine are Hyde Park, Madeira, Indian Hill, Blue Ash and Montgomery, Driehaus said. Alll of these ZIP codes’ populations are less than 7% African American.

The neighborhoods in which the lowest number of people are getting the vaccine include East Price Hill, Winton Terrace, Camp Washington, English Woods, East Westwood and the Villages at Roll Hill.

Kate Schroder, who helps health care providers share information and pool their resources through the nonprofit Health Collaborative, said the agency started noticing disparities with vaccinations in early February. The state granted the county an additional 2,000 doses after city and county leaders asked for more vaccines to address equity issues.

Health officials then identified the Hamilton County ZIP codes with the highest minority populations and highest levels of poverty. In addition to setting up pop-up sites in these communities, health officials are meeting with faith leaders and others in these communities to identify people who need to be vaccinated.

“When the equity plan in this area was first put together in early February, of those vaccinated in Hamilton County, 11% were African American," Schroder said. "We are now at 14% African American — 16% of those vaccinated in Hamilton County are minorities. We still have a really long way to go, but we are making progress."

Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece said she is “very concerned about the inequity” as it relates to getting the vaccine to African Americans.

“To get into these low-income, minority and African American communities, we need a mobile program for people who don’t have access,” Reece said.

She said she would like to have a one-stop COVID-19 resource bus that would bring testing, vaccines, a pharmacy and other resources into these communities.

In January, the county commissioners launched the COVID-19 Economic Relief and Recovery Task Force, which aims to connect families and business owners to county assistance.

Reece announced on Wednesday the rollout of the task force’s website: The website has six sections, which will help people navigate COVID-19-related challenges with housing and utility relief, employment/unemployment, food assistance, small business assistance and vaccine and testing information.

The county allocated $1 million in CARES Act money to Freestore Foodbank to help with food assistance. Four million went to small business assistance, and another $1 million will go toward hiring people who can help residents navigate county services via a hotline. Reece said more details on the hotline are forthcoming.

Click here for information on COVID-19 testing and vaccines.