Vaccination statistics recently added to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard show that people identifying as Hispanic or Latino, as well community members 65 and older, are the ethnic and age groups with the most vaccinations administered in Santa Cruz County.
And while those tendencies are not surprising in and of themselves, considering the demographics of the county and the emphasis on vaccinating vulnerable elderly populations, Hispanics are still being vaccinated at a lower rate than their share of the county’s population. In addition, nearly a quarter of the people vaccinated here so far have been in the 20-to-44 age category.
Dr. Eladio Pereira, chief medical officer at the Mariposa Community Health Center, said that those numbers are more a representation of the priority groups that local healthcare workers have been targeting so far, rather than the community as a whole.
“I think the representation of those (priority) groups may not necessarily represent the community… I think, in this case, the numbers reflect more the categories that we were asked to vaccinate first, more than anything,” Pereira said.
According to the state data, a total of 6,930 people had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of Thursday morning in Santa Cruz County.
Of those, about 66 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino, while nearly 23 percent identified as white and around 10 percent were other/unknown. U.S. Census estimates show the county’s population to be a little more than 83 percent Hispanic or Latino.
In terms of age ranges, nearly 47 percent were in the 65 and over category and a little more than 23 percent were 20 to 44 years old.
Pereira explained that the younger folks getting early dibs on the county’s vaccination efforts included a lot of healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement officers, teachers and other essential workers.
He noted that although the Hispanic and Latino population in Santa Cruz County represents a larger percentage than what’s reflected by the current vaccination statistics, a number of the people eligible vaccine recipients in the 1A and 1B priority phases are people who work in Santa Cruz County, but don’t live here.
Pereira said that he expects the statistics will better reflect community demographics once the county expands its vaccination efforts to the general population.
Still, he said, MCHC has been trying to expand its outreach efforts to the vulnerable people who are already eligible for the vaccine.
“I’m always concerned about vulnerability and access,” Pereira said, adding that his team has been reaching out to Spanish-speakers through radio segments.In addition, they’ve been conducting at-home vaccinations for individuals who cannot leave their home and travel to the ad-hoc vaccine clinic now operating at the City of Nogales Recreation Center.
He noted that another vulnerable group includes residents who do not have access to or familiarity with the internet. Much of the county’s pre-registration for vaccination has ben done online.
Pereira also encouraged regular citizens to step up to help vulnerable individuals with their vaccine registrations.
“If neighbors are aware of people in that category that need to be vaccinated, but they don’t have the technology, as neighbors, friends, we have the duty to help those who don’t have access to that,” Pereira said.
When vaccines initially began rolling out in Santa Cruz County, Pereira said, roughly 30 percent of those eligible to receive it refused inoculation out of skepticism over its safety.
“Some say it will not work, some say it was not studied long enough,” he said. “What we say is that the vaccine has been studied… but in this case, it was developed faster because there was a global effort to put it together.”
In recent weeks, as people have witnessed its safety and success, the refusal of the vaccine has decreased to 20 percent, he said.
“We’ve even vaccinated people who told us they didn’t want to be vaccinated, and now they’re coming back,” Pereira said, describing how trust and confidence has been growing in the community.
People who don’t have internet access can call (520) 365-7626.