Low COVID vaccination rates undermine the health of communities in Santa Clara County

Some communities more impacted: Just 9 percent of Latino residents have received the updated vaccine compared to 19 percent of all residents

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif.COVID vaccination rates are much lower this year compared to previous years, in Santa Clara County and across the country. Only 19 percent of county residents have received the latest COVID vaccine, as of December 18, 2023. Vaccination rates are even lower amongst Latino and African/African ancestry people in Santa Clara County: only 9 percent of Latinos and 11 percent of African/African ancestry individuals are up to date with their COVID vaccination compared to 22 percent of whites and 19 percent of Asians. This is the first time the COVID vaccine is being distributed through the commercial market and not guaranteed at no-cost. Public Health is taking action to connect those facing barriers to free and low-cost vaccines.

While certain racial/ethnic groups have been relatively undervaccinated since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, this gap increased with the most recent updated COVID vaccine. During 2022-2023, Latino residents were about 50 percent as likely to get vaccinated with the bivalent booster compared to White residents. Latino residents are currently 40 percent as likely to get vaccinated with the fall 2023 updated COVID vaccine compared to White residents.

“One of Public Health’s most important roles is to track systemic factors causing health inequities and to raise the alarm about the impact on Santa Clara County communities. Culturally centered outreach and education must be strengthened, to remove barriers and to connect people to the preventative care they need,” said Dr. Sarah Rudman, Deputy Health Officer for the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.

Everyone 6 months and older needs the updated COVID vaccine released in September 2023. The updated COVID vaccine is the best protection against the type of COVID spreading now.

Flyers in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages have been going to homes across Santa Clara County, along with other outreach and digital, radio, and print advertisements, directing residents to ways eligible people can still get the COVID vaccine at no cost. For uninsured or underinsured adults, this is the CDC’s Bridge Access Program. For children, this is the federal government’s Vaccines for Children Program. The updated COVID vaccine is also covered through Medi-Cal.

To ensure the public has access to this free vaccination, Public Health has been confirming implementation of the Bridge Access Program at local pharmacies, like CVS, and providing recommendations to corporate leadership and the state of California about improvements necessary. Additionally, Public Health is bringing the vaccine to communities and events where people are likely to face barriers getting vaccinated.

If a person does not have health insurance or a regular doctor, a community clinic or the County health system can help with health coverage enrollment. Call 1-866-967-4677 or visit the Patient Access Department at 770 South Bascom Avenue in San José between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

It is not too late to benefit from getting the latest COVID vaccine and this year’s flu shot, as Bay Area health officials previously recommended. More information about where to get vaccines is available at sccphd.org/ProtectThem.

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