The fact that people in minority communities, especially Hispanic people, have so far been less likely than their white neighbors to receive COVID-19 vaccinations is a problem, but it’s one the government is going to be limited in solving.
Among the things keeping people from seeking vaccinations probably are language barriers, distrust of the government, lack of access to the technological tools many are using to register for vaccines and a lack of any consistent relationship with health providers.
The government, primarily the Galveston County Health District, and the University of Texas Medical Branch can and are taking steps to address the disparities. The health district is creating informational material in Spanish, for example.
Health officials have acknowledged that heavy initial reliance on the internet to manage vaccine registration put the poor and seniors at a disadvantage. That initial reliance on computer technology was understandable, however. People were clamoring for a waiting list, and creating a website was the fastest, most efficient and effective way to do that.
It also was among the safest ways because it didn’t require human-to-human contact.
Still, it has flaws and health providers plan to address those in part by holding meetings that people without technical skills or access to technology can attend to make vaccination appointments.
The task then will be informing people and getting them to respond.
Among the things the government is going to have a very hard time doing is convincing people who mistrust the government to trust the government.
Clearing that barrier is going to take people in the underserved communities becoming advocates for the concept of vaccination and for people needing the vaccine.
Some already have begun doing that, and their efforts probably will be more effective than any government information effort. The more pastors and teachers and just neighbors make a point of advocating for and spreading the word about the importance of vaccination, the better their communities will fare.
Another truth of COVID-19 that arose again in recent reporting is there’s no great information, much less salvation, in obsessive probing into the cosmos of numbers spiraling around the pandemic.
At issue this time is a Texas Department of State Health Services website report 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.
People inclined to see the sinister in everything see it in that dubious number as well.
The state’s number is almost certainly false, and the result of a data entry error of some sort — some clerk fat-fingering a keyboard or choosing the first option in a pulldown list, which happens to be Asian because the word starts with an “A.”
We’re confident stating that because we’ve been obsessively probing the numbers from the beginning, and they all have always been full of slop. Numbers provided by the state of Texas, especially, have never been close to representing reality.
Every other data category has been wonky at times too, skewed high one month and low the next.
For example, the number of people reported “recovered” from COVID-19 always has been low, which skews the number of known active cases high. That was the case because the health district was spending more time identifying the newly infected than tracking recovered people, which was absolutely appropriate.
Does that create a false data set? Yes. Does the false data set matter? No.
The only facts about COVID-19 worth knowing are that it’s here; it’s contagious; it makes some people sick; it makes some of those very sick; and some of the very sick die.
It’s a fact that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by following some well-known simple precautions such as wearing face coverings in public, keeping about 6 feet apart and avoiding large crowds.
Although it’s understandable that people are anxious to get the vaccine, it’s important to remember that the distribution effort is not behind, but months ahead of schedule.
Absolutely nobody had predicted, much less promised, that mass vaccinations would be underway in the winter of 2021.
Yet they are. And glitches, disparities and loopy numbers notwithstanding, that’s a very good thing.
• Michael A. Smith