According to the Oregon Health Authority, 71.9% of Hispanic/Latin adults received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 75.6% of white Oregonians.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Around this time last year, less than half of Oregon’s Latino population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – something public health officials in the state have described as “unacceptable inequality,” according to an OPB article.
But that share of vaccinated individuals has since grown dramatically, nearly closing the equity gap between Latinos and other Oregon communities.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, 71.9% of Hispanic/Latin adults had received at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of September 14, compared to 75.6% of white adults in Oregon. This represents a jump of more than 20% in vaccination rates among the Latin American community looking back to this time last year.
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Hazel Wheeler with Virginia Garcia, a memorial health center with a particular focus on migrant and seasonal Latino farm workers in Washington and Yamhill counties, says the organization has been looking for ways to easily expand access to Latin American community outside the usual hours of other clinics – Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Unfortunately, marginalized people will always be at risk in these situations,” Wheeler said. “So making sure we’re there to help when needed and help provide those most at risk with care – that’s really what drives us as an organization.”
Of the 85,000 COVID-19 vaccines given by VG, about 54,400 of them were Hispanic/Latin.
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“We’ve doubled what it was last year, basically,” Wheeler said.
And as public health officials and other groups aim to continue vaccinating and strengthening Oregon’s BIPOC communities, VG has launched a new vaccination and testing clinic off 7th Avenue in Hillsboro.
“We have a dedicated site specific to Hillsboro,” Wheeler said, “that’s right off the MAX line, that we’re trying to bring people from county and state as well and again, just try to let them know that there is always access within the community”.
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In the meantime, the COVID-19 virus is still with us. Wheeler said their center’s positivity rate among the Latino community jumped to 42% in the past week. They have averaged a 24% positivity rate over the past few weeks.
The Oregon Health Authority sent KGW the following statement on progress in vaccinating the Latino community:
“Last year, as vaccines were rolled out statewide in the first few months of availability, we saw gaps within our Latino/a/x community. This group had already seen a disproportionate burden in adverse outcomes (i.e. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths) in the pandemic.We saw early on that the pandemic intensified and worsened the health inequities caused by the systemic racism in the U.S. Non-white racial and ethnic groups, including Latino/a/x residents, experience higher rates of illness and poorer health outcomes, and are more likely to work in essential services, where they face greater risk of exposure. We heard clearly from the community that the burden was placed on our Latino/a/x residents to be an essential workforce, and the community wanted vr like to see the responsibility of the OHA and the entire public health system for a specific plan to close these gaps.
“Our response has filled these gaps. The OHA has listened to the legitimate concerns of the Latino/a/x community and advocates, and we have worked to close these health gaps, using culturally specific approaches. We have asked county public health departments to submit equity plans outlining how they would help close vaccination gaps between racial and ethnic groups.We worked with community leaders to set a high vaccination goal, and we have done for all communities of color. We have developed a strategy to vaccinate our migrant and seasonal farm worker populations. We have developed Latino/a/x and culturally specific language strategies, including communications in Mesoamerican languages. We expanded our media engagement and culturally specific media focusing on the s latin/a/x residents. We have also worked with trusted leaders. On the vaccine access front, we knew that large vaccination sites couldn’t work for everyone. There were obstacles. To fill this gap, we have hosted events with anization community organizations around the state to host culturally specific events and events with the state’s federally qualified health centers, many of which serve Latino/ a/x. We have also been able to fund over 170 community organizations which may be culturally specific in their response, and faith-based institutions, which have been able to serve people from a holistic perspective.
“Finally, our numbers show that for the Latino/a/x population, there is a larger gap in the younger age group. Some of this was expected, as vaccines for younger people have arrived more later, and this age group lags behind older residents, so our update is a reason to recognize what has been achieved and the collective work that has gotten us there. work remains to be done.The OHA is committed to eliminating health and action by 2030, and we have learned what it takes to eliminate health inequities, which means raising the voice of community and community organizations working in partnership with local public health toward specific equity goals and implementing culturally appropriate strategies.
County-level information can also be found on the Vaccine Metrics dashboard. Immunization rates by county as well as information on the number of people remaining to receive the first dose vaccines and the bivalence booster can be found on the Statewide tab. Vaccination rates by county, race and ethnicity are available in the “Race and ethnicity” tab. (Find that tab here.)”