Bronson Healthcare works to solve COVID-19 vaccine disparities along racial lines

Vaccine Disparities
Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 18:51:27-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — As more and more Americans get their vaccines, data is showing some minority groups are being left behind.

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As of Feb. 26, statewide data shows around a 39% gap between white and black residents who have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

One healthcare system said they too are seeing vaccine disparities, and it's something that needed to be addressed.

"Just like with our, the COVID-19, testing in what we saw earlier on mortalities, there were disparities between our people of color, our indigenous folks in those that are white, those same disparities pulled through in vaccine distribution," said Beth Washington, Bronson Healthcare's Vice President of Community, Health, Equity and Inclusion.

While the hospital has been continuing to vaccinate Michiganders, she said after looking at the data from the first four clinics, they realized something was wrong.

"We could see our disparities about 98% in those clinics, were white folks versus our people of color and indigenous folks," said Washington.

Statewide data shows about 43% of first doses administered went to white residents, while 3.7% was received by black residents and 9.1% for residents of other races.

Within the same data, about 43% of people did not report their race.

In an attempt to bridge the gap, the county health department has reached out to community groups that can help.

"We said, okay, where are people? Who do they trust, who they work with, and let's partner there. We can't solve it all. How can we do this as a community to make sure that we do vaccinate all of our folks?," said Washington.

"It is gratifying to actually have it in the community where blacks are most prevalent, and they actually have access to it. Often times, they don’t have the access. This is a place they trust with people they trust, so they are more apt to come here and get the help they need," said Addis Moore, the Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the President of the Northside Ministry Alliance.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church's Pastor Addis Moore said the proof is there when it's at a place people of color trust, with more than 500 people receiving it at just one vaccine clinic in the beginning of February.

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"I can tell you through that, that I know people who are saying they want the vaccine, they truly do and are getting it. We still have a lot of work to do as a community to make sure that that continues to be the case," said Washington.

Bronson Healthcare said although it's not available to the younger population just, early studies in young black, brown and indigenous communities are showing there is a lot of hesitancy to get the vaccine. That's why they are continuing to work with community partners to make sure there's education and availability for those who want it.