Tampa epidemiologist says racial disparity among those vaccinated in Florida is shrinking

Posted at 3:02 AM, Mar 11, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — There is good news when it comes to vaccinations and COVID-19 as the pandemic continues, especially here in Florida.

Dr. Jason Salemi from USF Health says the state has administered at least 5.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Every three in four doses is currently going to a person age 65 and up.

"What that means is in our senior population, we have 57% that have received at least one dose and 32% that had received both doses," says Dr. Salemi.

"One of the positive things I want to, you know, really leave with a takeaway from the vaccine is the power of it to really reduce cases. And no better example of that is there than in long term care facilities. Obviously, they were prioritized first, since January 17. So not that long ago, what six or seven weeks ago, we've had an 85% reduction in cases among residents, we've gone from 3,700 to 546. And in staff of those long term care facilities, we've gone from 2800 to 460," explains Salemi.

"And here's what the problem is to me. So one of the things that I might hear is, well, 16% of the population in Florida is Black. And only six to 7% of those who have been vaccinated thus far, are Black. And so that's a big problem, right?"

"But if you think about who we've been focusing on in Florida, that's our seniors, I just mentioned that about 75% of those people who have been vaccinated are 65 and older. And so the racial ethnic distribution in seniors is different than the entire population. So whereas Blacks make up 16% of the population that's 16 and above, that's vaccine eligible, they make up less than 10% of people who are seniors."

Salemi then estimated the number of people in the 65 and older population who were white and vaccinated, versus who are Black and vaccinated, and then compared those rates across counties in Florida.

He says the work we're doing to improve communication and access to the vaccine, appears to be working.

"So for example, in Broward County on February 1, white seniors were two times more likely to have been vaccinated than Black seniors. And so what we've seen is in every one of these counties with the exception of two, we've seen more than a 10% reduction in that rate ratio. And then the other two counties, we saw less than a 10% change. So again, this is all really good news that we're starting to tackle those disparities and reduce them, we've still got a long ways to go, you can see in almost every one of these counties, maybe Pinellas County is the closest to equitable distribution. But in all of these counties, even though we've been doing better, white seniors are still more likely to get vaccinated than Black seniors. But we're certainly heading in the right direction," explains Dr. Salemi.

Dr. Salemi keeps a public dashboard for all to see the breakdown in COVID-19 cases, vaccinations, testing and other data. You can keep track of that by clicking here.