Washington Hispanics struggle to get vaccines despite higher risk of contracting COVID-19

While Hispanics in Washington are far more likely to be infected with COVID-19, early vaccine data reveals that they are far less likely to have gotten a life-saving dose. 

Despite calls for racial equity in the vaccination response, the racial disparities are drastic. 

While Hispanics make up about 13% of the state’s population, they account for 32% of the state’s cases. To date, Hispanics have received about 5% of the state’s vaccine doses, far less than their share of the population. Black and multiracial people are also disproportionately represented in the state. 

"There are so many access barriers that we’ve been hearing about from community leaders and partners over and over again, including language access, technology access barriers, transportation barriers, etc.," said Paj Nandi, the health department’s director of community relations and equity. "We know that even in our mass vaccination sites we can integrate an equity lens, for example, by starting to reserve appointments for phone-based scheduling."

Nandi said the state is setting aside about 20% of the appointments at state sites for telephone scheduling. But even in places like King County, where the county specifically targeted higher-minority areas of Kent and Auburn for its mass vaccination sites, data shows the people who live in those areas are less likely to have gotten a vaccine than people living anywhere else in the county.

State health officials say they will rely on trusted community groups and community providers to fix growing racial disparities and plan to release a more thorough plan this week.