Black and Latinx communities in San Francisco are being vaccinated at much lower rates compared to the city’s White and Asian populations.
This is new data released by the city and county’s Department of Public Health (SFDPH) to The Investigative Unit Tuesday showing – while 30% of San Francisco’s White and Asian populations have been vaccinated – only 4% and 8% of its Black and Latinx populations have received a first shot.
The Investigative Unit contacted several community clinics in San Francisco and learned part of the problem could be a lack of representation in the city’s vaccination plan – and a lack of vaccines allocated to them.
“We’re not getting any vaccines,” said Brenda Storey, Executive Director of Mission Neighborhood Health Center [MNHC] Wednesday. “[And] we’re not getting any explanation, which is the piece that’s frustrating.”
MNHC has served San Francisco’s Mission District for more than 50 years. It has an active patient roster of vulnerable patients who are more likely receive the vaccine if they can get it at their neighborhood clinic, according to Storey.
“[Our patients] have the trust in us. They live in the neighborhood,” she said.
SFDPH data shows the city’s COVID Command Center (CCC) retained 63% of the nearly 80,000 doses it received from the state as of Feb. 4. CCC officials said most of the doses were used to inoculate healthcare workers, as required by state priority rules.
About 7% went to community clinics, according to the data, which was just enough to vaccinate clinic employees.
Adding to the confusion and concerns over equity, San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium CEO Sabra Matovsky said “some [clinics] got no vaccines for patients [last week], while others did.”
Questions surrounding vaccine allocation to providers became more pressing, several clinics said, after they learned of new mass vaccination sites planned around the city and neighborhood pop-up clinics backed by SFDPH.
“Why couldn’t we get at least some [of those doses] to start with our 90-year-olds?” asked Storey who has over 800 patients over the age of 75, many of whom are not able or willing to go to mass vaccination sites because of concerns over lines, language and lack of transportation.
“We need to have a seat at the table,” said Dr. Kenneth Tai with North East Medical Services, which serves vulnerable Asian patients in San Francisco. “A lot of these high thorough-put clinics don’t have the language capacity.”
CCC Operations Section Chief Dr. Andrea Tenner said San Francisco is about 80% complete vaccinating healthcare workers and is ramping up vaccinating patients 65 years of age and over. The mass vaccination sites, she added, is helping to get as many shots into arms. Statewide, officials have been criticized of falling behind on vaccinations.
“This is an unprecedented vaccination effort,” she said. “We’re balancing getting vaccines out as quickly as possible and getting it to all of our partners…but we have over 150 different providers that are registered with the city.”
Dr. Tenner explained San Francisco – like counties across California – is battling a vaccine supply problem. Before allocating doses, county officials also need to ensure smaller providers are prepared to administer the vaccines in terms of space, storage and trained employees, she said.
Last week, The Investigative Unit reported nearly 100,000 doses sitting unused in Santa Clara County, showing some smaller clinics struggle to administer vaccines as quickly as larger entities.
But the value in community clinics isn’t quantity, their organizers say; it’s equity.
After our interview with Mission Neighborhood Health Wednesday, the clinic received 500 vaccines. It was enough to start vaccinating some of their elderly patients.
San Francisco health officials said they are targeting vulnerable communities and plan to release additional vaccination data based on race and ethnicity this week.
“There are definitely ways we can improve our communication.” Dr. Tenner said.
Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter for NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit. Contact her about this story or others by emailing email@example.com.
Source: NBC Bay Area