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Black, Latino Residents Falling Behind in N.H.'s Vaccine Rollout

Community health workers prepare for a vaccine clinic next to a sign that says "Clinical observation 15 minutes after your vaccination" in English and Spanish
Casey McDermott, NHPR
/
In Nashua (above) and across the state, community health workers have been trying to break down barriers to vaccine access through community clinics and other outreach.

Black and Latino people in New Hampshire have faced disproportionate harm from the COVID-19 pandemic, including higher rates of infection. But they're falling behind in New Hampshire’s vaccine rollout, according to new data from the state health department.

As of March 8, according to the new data provided in response to a public records request from NHPR, Black and Latino residents have received the vaccine at roughly half the rate of white residents. About 16 percent of New Hampshire’s white population has received their first dose, compared with about 7 percent of the Black and Latino populations. Similar gaps exist in the state’s fully vaccinated population: About 6.5 percent of white residents have received all recommended doses, about two times the share of Black and Latino residents.

(Looking for information on how to get your vaccine in New Hampshire? NHPR can help.)

Asian residents fall slightly behind white residents in New Hampshire’s vaccine coverage, but ahead of other racial and ethnic groups, according to the state’s data. About 10 percent of Asian residents in New Hampshire have received at least one dose, and about 6.3 percent have been fully vaccinated.

The overwhelming majority of those who've been vaccinated in New Hampshire so far have been white. Latino residents make up about 4 percent of the state's overall population, according to Census Bureau data cited by state health officials, but less than 2 percent of those vaccinated. Black residents make up about 1.4 percent of the population but account for less than one percent of those vaccinated so far.

State health officials say they’re working to address these gaps.

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on marginalized populations in the United States, and New Hampshire is no exception,” said Jake Leon, communications director for the state Department of Health and Human Services. “DHHS is committed to ensuring equitable access to the vaccine.” New Hampshire is setting aside 10 percent of its weekly vaccine supply for communities that have been “disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

As outlined in the state’s vaccine strategy plan, the state uses a privately developed tool called the “COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index” to help identify where to send those doses, and relies on regional public health networks to set up mobile clinics and other outreach efforts.

(Related: A Conversation About Vaccine Access and Equity on The Exchange)

This vaccine equity strategy is also designed to reach people who might have trouble getting registered and vaccinated through one of the state’s fixed sites, such as those at hospitals or other large venues. So far, public health networks have held community clinics in low-income senior housing facilities, domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens and more.

The state health department “is working with the 13 Regional Public Health Networks to establish vaccine clinics at locations that are familiar and accessible to the target population and geographically positioned for easy access on foot or through public transportation when available,” Leon said.

The state is also focusing on developing “targeted, culturally responsive messaging and outreach” and building more education around these initiatives, Leon said, including through “train-the-trainer style vaccination education with community leaders.”

This kind of outreach is already underway in Nashua, where public health workers have developed relationships with community leaders in local immigrant and refugee populations to serve as informal vaccine ambassadors who can promote and answer questions about the COVID-19 immunization process. In Somersworth, public health workers have also turned to faith leaders in the local Indonesian community to help build trust in the vaccine.

Leon said some of the gaps in vaccine coverage among non-white residents could be influenced by the age distribution of racial and ethnic groups in New Hampshire. Outside of the equity allocation, the vaccine is available to the general public in New Hampshire over age 65. And according to a 2019 analysis of Census Data by the University of New Hampshire, “19.4 percent of the white population is over age 65, compared to 6.7 percent of the minority population.”

“But there are likely many other factors that we don’t yet have data on, such as vaccine hesitancy and access,” Leon added.

A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found “little difference in reluctance to take the coronavirus vaccine among Black and white people in the U.S.,” and only “slightly more” hesitancy among Latino people. As reported by NPR, “while there was little racial difference in who wants the vaccine, there were sharp partisan differences” in the polling results, with nearly 50 percent of Republican men reporting that they did not plan to get vaccinated.

(Related from NPR: Little Difference In Vaccine Hesitancy Among White And Black Americans, Poll Finds)

New Hampshire is one of the last states to share information on the race and ethnicity of who’s being vaccinated. By the start of March, 41 states were reporting this data, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The disparities seen in New Hampshire are also present across the country. The Kaiser Family Foundation found “a consistent pattern across states of Black and Hispanic people receiving smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population.”

Casey McDermott is an editor and reporter at New Hampshire Public Radio, where she works with colleagues across the newsroom to deepen the station’s accountability coverage, data journalism and audience engagement across platforms.

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