HITCHCOCK

COVID-19 vaccines aren’t being distributed evenly in Galveston County, and eight weeks into a rocky rollout health officials are trying to figure out how to make the system more equitable.

Nearly 200 people on Friday were vaccinated at Greater St. Matthews Baptist Church in Hitchcock.

People vaccinated at the church were chosen from the tens of thousands of people on the county’s vaccination waiting list. They weren’t chosen at random, said Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County’s Local Health Authority.

For Friday’s event, the Galveston County Health District invited people who live in ZIP codes that have been underrepresented in the county’s vaccinations so far and where there are higher rates of COVID infections, Keiser said.

Targeting vaccinations is tricky because there’s little information available to the county when people are being invited to get their shot.

“With the waitlist, we don’t collect race information,” Keiser said. “That was done intentionally, so that we would not scare people away. We’re now struggling with a way to use the waitlist to make things equitable.”

The Galveston County Health District estimates that only about 4 percent of people who have been vaccinated in Galveston County are African American, Keiser said. But a full picture of vaccination demographics is still fuzzy.

UNEVEN NUMBERS

A summary of local vaccinations on the Texas Department of State Health Services website reports that of the more than 41,000 people in the county who have been at least partially vaccinated, 12,942 people, or 39.7 percent, were of Asian descent.

The number is baffling and has been dismissed by local health officials.

According to 2019 census estimates, there are only 11,619 Asian people in all of Galveston County.

The University of Texas Medical Branch, which has distributed most of the vaccines sent to Galveston County since December, said about 65 percent of its vaccinations have gone to white people, 16 percent have gone to Hispanic people and 9 percent have gone to Black people.

The medical branch’s figures aren’t limited to just Galveston County residents and included vaccinations made at facilities in Harris and Brazoria counties.

Still, the medical branch’s vaccinations have disproportionately gone to white people compared to all three county’s populations.

Although the ultimate goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible, some health experts worry that unequal rollouts of vaccines will discourage some groups from ultimately seeking inoculations or that it will leave some of the most vulnerable groups unprotected for longer periods of time.

Indeed, the local vaccine rollout is disproportionate with the demographics of people who have been affected the worst by the coronavirus.

Of the 27,657 cases of COVID-19 identified in Galveston County since last March, more than 10,700 cases, 38 percent of the total, have been in Hispanic residents, according to the health district. Nearly half of the deaths reported in the county have been in Hispanic residents.

WHAT’S BEING DONE

Local officials are aware of the disparities in the rollout. The medical branch’s vaccine distribution task force even has multiple subcommittees dedicated to addressing issues of inequality in getting people vaccinated.

The committees have taken on the task of translating vaccine information into Spanish, and organizing vaccine information events with leaders in minority communities.

There isn’t an easy way to address the issue of disparities in vaccinations, because those disparities are already baked into other parts of health care systems and other parts of society, said Dr. Farah Kudrath, a psychiatry resident at the medical branch and member of the vaccine task force

“It really just highlights the social factors that affect communities in a lot of different places,” Kudrath said. “These differences don’t appear out of thin air.”

Some groups have offered to help community members who might be missing out on access to vaccines because of a lack of access or familiarity with technology.

At Texas City’s Moore Memorial Public Library, employees have begun helping people use the library’s computers to sign up for the county’s vaccine waiting list.

“I do feel good about helping people through this difficult time, even though I’m just a lowly librarian,” said Maegan Rocio, the library’s young adult and public service librarian.

Greater St. Matthews Church also has begun offering similar help to people, officials said.

Those kind of efforts could begin to address the disparities, Keiser said.

But for now, some of the differences in who is getting vaccinated might remain apparent, including at the county’s Hitchcock church initiative.

Although the event was designed to focus an underserved communities, many of the early attendees at Friday’s clinic were white people from outside of Hitchcock, Keiser said.

Keiser believed that was a consequence of some communities not having easy access to the website login for the waiting list, and said the health district planned to do more outreach to underserved communities in the weeks to come to correct that.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(23) comments

Michelle Aycoth

A summary of local vaccinations on the Texas Department of State Health Services website reports that of the more than 41,000 people in the county who have been at least partially vaccinated, 12,942 people, or 39.7 percent, were of Asian descent.

The number is baffling and has been dismissed by local health officials.

Interesting fact, cheating the system ?

Andy Aycoth

Carol Dean

Maybe NOT cheating the system, but possibly coming from other counties. That seems the way to "play" some of the games these days.

johnferguson Staff
John Wayne Ferguson

No, probably not. Maybe I should have explained more clearly.

The DSHS numbers probably has some kind of data error going on. According to the state's numbers, more Asians have been vaccinated in Galveston County than are known to live here. The DSHS numbers purport to be a count of people with Galveston County addresses who are vaccinated. If they were non-county residents, they wouldn't be reflected in that specific count.

It's likely a data entry error somewhere in the system, which is why it's being dismissed by local officials.

I included the information as an example of how unreliable the numbers are right now.

According to UTMB's figures, only about 7 percent of the vaccines they've given out went to people of Asian descent.

Carol Dean

You are aware that Mark Henry and Commissioners are considering turning all of the County's IT to AmazonWeb, right? This was confirmed by Ken Clark at the Clear Creek Womens Luncheon this past Friday. He desperately tried to deflect the statement, as he was caught unaware when it was made to a room of about 75 people. The people in attendance were highly concerned.

Gary Scoggin

What in the wide world of sports does that have to do with this story?

David Hardee

The inference in the headline is an irritation to the existing public that is convulsing under constant articles about racism. The is no fact in this article that isolates any person or activity that is racist. The percentages and numbers presented are results from activities organized and with procedures set up by organizations that we're performing a public service.

To produce an article that takes the consequences (some are probably unforeseen) and subjectively assigns a RACE factor is an intentional effort to titillate the public's existing irritation.

I challenge the GDN to design and set up a vaccination program that will be total without any disparity taking into consideration the gender, age, physical conditions, race, and mental ability of those wanting vaccination to follow the prescribed procedures.

These organizations and people are trying to service the public and they do not deserve a MEDIA's reporting that they are NOT being equitable

and doing their best.

Stop these journalistic HATE MONGERING ARTICLES.

Bailey Jones

What this sounds like to me:

"We should give priority to vaccinating people in nursing homes because they are especially vulnerable." - Yes, that sounds right.

"We should give priority to health care workers because they are especially vulnerable." - Yes, that sounds right.

"We should give priority to people over 65 because they are especially vulnerable." - Yes, that sounds right.

"We should give priority to black and brown people because they are especially vulnerable." - Well, that's just hate-mongering!

It is what it is, David. Racial inequities in health and health care are real, and COVID is no different.

Blacks are 1.4X as likely to catch COVID, compared to whites, 3.7X as likely to hospitalized, and 2.8X as likely to die from it. For Hispanics, the numbers are 1.7X, 4.1X, and 2.8X. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-race-ethnicity.html)

Surely it makes sense to direct vaccinations toward the most affected in the population, and we're doing the opposite of that - all across the country.

The old white man doth protest too much, methinks.

David Hardee

Classifying me from my comments as "The old white man doth protest too much, methinks." qualifies in today's vernacular as a personal insult and a racist remark.

Be a little judicious because your house may not be pristine. So consider this as an in-kind response.

Bailey, my comment referenced no particular class, category, or color.

The efforts of these good people to get all of us vaccinated deserves praise. This article dwells on the flaws and inferred it was a racial prompted purpose. That was intentional and wrong.

I spoke to the articles intentionally using race as the vehicle to titillate the articles readers with additional irritation in this atmosphere where racism is reaching the shrill that is drowning out any possibility of cohesiveness.

I find there is a consistent theme in your posting that arouse suspicions as to your ability to form a position without bias. Evidently, you suffer from past inequities you were not able to associate with your inadequacy and consequently found a culprit on who you could place the blame. An old white man, or any white man, or as NAACP president put it - any white skin - has currency and that currency creates the "Systemic White Superiority" which causes delusional mental depression in some non-whites. Bestowing those attributes to a skin color might be your culprit. Bailey, be assured that the culprits you perceive do not exist in my lineage or my progeny. And those that are culprits along with their culprit counterparts on the other side are the mutual enemies of the majority of the population of our society.

Your recitation of the ratios and claims of racial inequities do exist but are not the intended product of other groups conspiring.

As to HATE MONGERING, there is abundant evidence that the MEDIA is using ethnicity to stimulate audience attention, popularity - Titillating.

The MEDIA has become OUR culprit.

David

Bailey Jones

lol - that's great, David. You never disappoint.

Gary Scoggin

David, what seems to upset you the most about the headline is that’s it’s true but it doesn’t fit the narrative you like to tell. Therefore the whole thing is hate mongering.

David Hardee

Absolutely correct - Gary. The inequities are in the process of an attempt to meet the needs of everyone. Those good people are not creating the inequities. The inequities occur despite their efforts to serve the entire population quickly and efficiently. The article Headline portrays it as a purposely racial construction.

Gary Scoggin

The fact that the vaccination gaps fall disproportionately into certain ethnic categories defines the problem, not the intent. I have no doubt that the folks working on vaccine distribution are doing the best that they can under some really tough circumstances. So I want to be clear that I thank them and applaud their efforts. Now, as to the article, the data shows that even our system, however well intentioned, has gaps. No complex system is perfect on day one and has to be constantly tuned. Vaccine distribution is no different and, as a result, the system has already been modified a couple of times. That's okay. In fact, its a very good thing.

While you see the headline here as inflammatory, I see it as factual. The fact is that certain high-risk ethnic groups are being vaccinated at a lower rate than would be expected. Many older people, including older people of color, don't have the access or the knowledge to deal with a system that's largely online. Therefore, different outreach methods are necessary to find those folks. And it's through data and demographics that you identify who those folks likely are. Targeted approaches such as this one is one way we plug the holes. (We went through much the same thing after Hurricane Harvey by the way.)

David Hardee

Gary, do us a service - Take the following quotation - which does an excellent job of incorporating the central point - as the theme - HEADLINE - for an article by a journalist to inform the public that there are problems, inequities, etc., and construct a headline.

"Many older people, including older people of color, don't have the access or the knowledge to deal with a system that's largely online. Therefore, different outreach methods are necessary to find those folks. And it's through data and demographics that you identify who those folks likely are. Targeted approaches such as this one is one way we plug the holes. "

Does that headline you construct require the word RACE and ignore all the other affected categories. PEOPLE need help. The flaws in the vaccine procedure are not there because a RACIAL component was not considered. Making distinctions for the flaws by this journalist was intentional. He took an already irritation and used it to titillate (your word inflame is synonymous) the public.

I want the MEDIA to stop irritations. You and Bailey are elated at having the public bombarded with the distinction that RACE (skin color) is the fundamental distinction for any flaw in our society. The Media is my target. They - MEDIA - rejoice in finding they create these debates, Quit being enablers to OUR enemy.

David

Gary Scoggin

David... I take no delight in the fact that there are racial disparities in our County’s vaccine distribution. I’ve made clear that I believe this is not intentional but is an artifact of the program design. David, “RACE” is apparently a trigger word for you that causes you great rage, even when it is used properly. — as it was in this headline.

More disconcerting is that you’ve bought into this “the media is the enemy of the people” nonsense. The “media” is an essential component of a free society. In fact, it is so important that the Founders amended the Constitution to make that clear. Not only did they amend the Constitution, they made this part of the FIRST Amendment. You may not like the press, but it’s much better than no press at all. Given your rage here, I would enjoy our to find media you like. This would include not giving money to a publication- this one - that you seem to despise so much.

Gary Scoggin

"enjoy you" was supposed to be "encourage you"

Gary Scoggin

BTW, not mentioning "Race" in the headline would be improper as that is pretty much the point of the story.

David Hardee

Enjoy your race bating PRESS. I used your words in hope that you would see the detrimental effect of incorporating RACE in the headline. You ignored my request for "you to construct a headline and declared the Constitution as being a sanctifier for anything the PRESS would do. That is the ultimate "nonsense."

You have diverted from the central issue. No longer is it a worthy effort to respond.

Enjoy being an enabler of those wanting skin color to be the determinate of a person's value. It was satisfying to have presented you with my "nonsense" even though I was fairly certain it was going to be a useless effort.

FYI - In the future, we must eliminate pronouns - they are racist according to the progressive liberals Critical Race Theory (CRT) that are purifying our society.

Adios, David.

Gary Scoggin

David -- I'm glad you found ranting about the "RACE baiting press" satisfying. You obviously take great pleasure in being offended. Which seems to be an easy thing to do. I'm glad I could help.

Jim Forsythe

GDN reports the news. If what they report is not what you want to hear, you have a problem with the group that is responsible for it. GDN has no say so in how the vaccine program is administered.

The Galveston County Health District is doing a better job of scheduling, then they did just a few weeks ago.

They are starting to go into the areas to vaccinate people that do not have the means or are not able to get to the drive thru vaccine site.

Once the other vaccines are approved, things will start to get better. Until that time, patience is required.

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine should be out in a few weeks and the advantage to this vaccine is that it only require one shot and does not require ultra-cold storage, like the Pfizer shots. Other companies vaccines should be approved in the near future.

Bailey Jones

I hope everyone got a chance to see Texas' own Black Pumas performing inauguration night -

"It's a good day to be

A good day for me

A good day to see my favorite colors, colors

My sisters and my brothers

They see 'em like no other

All my favorite colors..."

Carol Dean

John Wayne's comment was "the possibility of a Data entry mistake". I for one don't trust our County's Data Entries floating around "in the cloud" somewhere! Gee, what if Amazon didn't agree with some of our data? You realize that there is also legal and governmental data regarding our Sheriff's department that we might not need to trust to an organization who keeps "loosing things" and "taking sides. IMHO

Gary Scoggin

I suppose we could go back to the system with a ledger and quill and ink pen with poor Bob Crachett making the entries. I'm sure that Amazon (whomever he is) has better things to worry about than the number of Galveston County Asians who have been vaccinated. Here's an equally likely theory: The County is using Dominion software to tabulate vaccinations. Or, perhaps, somebody somewhere made a mistake.

Carol Dean

Gary, your comment doesn't even deserve a reply. TaTa

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