Vaccination rates for African Americans still lag; La. COVID19 task force works to improve the numbers

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 7:39 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the Delta variant sickens more Louisiana residents, data shows African Americans still lag in terms of vaccination rates.

The Louisiana Department of Health’s data says blacks make up 29.28% of the vaccines administered compared to 58.4% for whites.

Dr. Thomas LaVeist is Dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University and co-Chair of the Louisiana COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

LaVeist says the task force continues to work to educate more people about the safety of the three authorized vaccines.

“We continue to work with the state, with the state health department in developing strategies and policies for getting people vaccinated. We are working on a variety of different strategies, we’re trying knocking on doors, different strategies with the use of digital media, different ways of reaching people and different messengers to bring the message of the need to get vaccinated,” said LaVeist.

LaVeist said some people are hesitant and others are vaccine-resistant.

“When you start talking to people about what their, why they are not vaccinated we find different categories of reasons and so there are really different types of people, so we’re trying to become more nuanced in the way we message to attract different people and message to those different objections,” said LaVeist.

He said some have lingering vaccine questions.

“A lot of them have legitimate questions like how did you create a vaccine in 10 months when normally it takes more than 10 years, those are legitimate questions that we can answer, is it safe, you know, we have emergency use authorization, but FDA has not given full approval, so what does that mean? We can answer those questions and in many cases when we answer those questions people are satisfied and they’re willing to get vaccinated,” LaVeist stated.

La. Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination data.
La. Department of Health COVID-19 vaccination data.(La. Department of Health)

According to Census data blacks are 32.8% of Louisiana’s population and whites make up 62.8%.

“We’ve had issues with vaccine hesitancy in the black community but not only in the black community. In fact, if you look at some of the local jurisdictions around the state, we actually have higher rates of vaccination for African Americans in some parts of the state as well, some of the local communities,” said LaVeist.

In New Orleans, blacks are 60% of the population and blacks are 43.9% of the vaccinations completed by race which is slightly higher than whites at 43.0.

New Orleans COVID-19 vaccination rates by race on August 3, 2021
New Orleans COVID-19 vaccination rates by race on August 3, 2021(Source: City of New Orleans COVID-19 Dashboard)

Dr. Jennifer Avegno is Director of the New Orleans Health Department.

“You’ve seen actually our vaccination rates go up nicely over the last several weeks and what’s made me even more happy is that when you break that down racially, we’ve seen our residents of color actually getting vaccinated at faster rates than our white residents in the last couple of weeks,” said Avegno.

In Jefferson Parish which sits just outside of New Orleans only 22 percent of blacks are vaccinated compared to 60% of whites.

Jefferson Parish COVID-19 vaccination rates by race on August 3, 2021.
Jefferson Parish COVID-19 vaccination rates by race on August 3, 2021.(Source: Jefferson Parish & La. Department of Health)

Overall, vaccinations in the state are increasing as the Delta variant has coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations soaring.

“It is encouraging. I think one of the things that I’m noticing, we are getting more willing to accept the vaccine I think some of that is that people are getting those questions answered satisfactorily and they’re coming to understand more about the safety and the effectiveness of the vaccine,” LaVeist said.

LDH’s COVID-19 online dashboard shows 4.93% of Hispanics have completed the vaccine series.

“I think that’s really where we are with the black and Hispanic community, it’s mostly inconvenience, questions that still need to be answered and getting them the information that they need to make good choices,” said LaVeist.

Still across the board, some Louisianans are dug in related to their opposition to being vaccinated.

“There are other people, however, who their objections are more difficult to respond to, there are a lot of conspiracy theories out there, things that are simply untrue. We try to correct those things, but people just believe what they believe,” said LaVeist.

He said the vaccines are safe and effective. And he addressed concerns raised by some people who fear possible side effects after the shots.

“We know that we’ve had over 600,000 Americans die from the virus, right? So, the risk of the vaccine is far less than the risk of the virus and it just seems to me that taking your chances with the virus is just not a smart decision,” LaVeist.

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