JVG_210312_COVID

Nurse Kavita Deckard administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Leon Klusmeyer, a chiropractor at Chiropractic Wellness Center, at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center, Janesville.

State health officials hope new plans for future vaccine eligibility will help bridge race and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 vaccination that persist in Rock County.

The state Department of Health Services announced Thursday that all Wisconsin residents will be eligible for vaccination sometime in May.

The last phase of eligibility before May will be March 29, when eligibility will open to people who have one or more preexisting health conditions based on a list of conditions determined by the state.

Rock County health officials during a media call Thursday said eligibility groups have largely hampered the ability to get vaccine doses out equitably.

Vaccinations for people of color have remained largely stagnant since vaccine doses arrived in the county in December.

As of Thursday, 32,077 Rock County residents have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Of those, 544 are Black, 602 are Hispanic or Latino, 196 are Asian, 49 are American Indian, and 1,148 identify as “other” race. There are 3,039 people who are considered as unknown race.

Those numbers pale in comparison to the 26,960 white people who have been vaccinated, according to county data.

Data shows vaccine administration in the county has been racially disproportionate.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports Rock County has the following racial and ethnic breakdown:

  • 90.3% white.
  • 9.1% Hispanic or Latino.
  • 5.3% Black.
  • 2.5% mixed race.
  • 1.3% Asian.

Of those vaccinated, 1.7% are Black, 1.9% are Hispanic or Latino and 0.6% are Asian.

County officials have said they are working on outreach programs to get vaccination information out to people of color and connect with community leaders to help get people vaccinated.

When asked if the data proves those efforts to be ineffective, health Supervisor Kelsey Cordova said the county’s vaccine advisory committee is continuing to examine ways to ensure vaccine administration and distribution are equitable.

Some outreach efforts will take a while to kick in because of delays in vaccine administration tied to limited supply, said Jessica Turner, public information officer.

State health secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk echoed Thursday that eligibility groups have hindered access to vaccine to people of color and that the state as a whole needs to examine why there are fewer people of color who work in health care, education and other sectors that are being vaccinated already.

But hope is on the way, state officials said, because planned increases in vaccine supply should allow the state to open eligibility to everyone in May, lowering some barriers to vaccine access.

Challenges will continue in getting people access to vaccine doses if individuals have mobility issues or lack of access to the internet, state officials have said.

Willems Van Dijk on Thursday said she encourages employers to start reaching out to vaccinators now to set up processes for getting employees vaccinated once eligible, suggesting mobile vaccine clinics as one option.

Rock County will likely offer an online form for people with preexisting conditions to register for appointments beginning March 29, epidemiologist Nick Zupan said.

To see the full list of eligible preexisting conditions, visit dhs.wisconsin .gov.

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