Black, Hispanic, and Native American people in Massachusetts are being vaccinated for the coronavirus at rates below the state average, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.
Forty-seven percent of Black people, 45 percent of Hispanic people, and 42 percent of Native American people have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the department’s weekly vaccination report last week.
That compares with 62 percent of white people and the state average of 65 percent. Asian people were also 65 percent vaccinated. (Two smaller groups, multiracial people and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, have seen extremely high vaccination levels.)
Vaccination disparities across race and ethnicity have been recognized for months. They have persisted even as the state has become a national leader in overall vaccination rate and as coronavirus restrictions have eased, allowing many people to return to a more normal life.
The Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition warned Sunday that Black and Latino communities remain at risk and emphasized the need for more vaccinations.
The Baker administration said it has been trying to address the problem from the beginning. “A core principle of the state’s vaccine program has been to address vaccine equity and access for the Commonwealth’s most disproportionately impacted communities,” a spokeswoman for the state’s COVID-19 Response Command Center said in a statement.
Vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic residents are almost double the national average, but “there is more work to do,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Administration has invested over $30 million in vaccine equity initiatives to increase vaccine awareness and access through outreach efforts like door-to-door canvassing and community-based vaccination clinics, and recently announced a focus on increasing targeted, community-based clinics to meet residents where they are and to eliminate any barriers to vaccination,” the statement said.
Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, an infectious disease physician and associate epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, said she thought the state was on the “right track” as it moves away from mass vaccination sites to more “local, personalized vaccine outreach.”
“That’s what it’s going to take and that’s where we’re heading,” she said. “I think they’re really trying.”
She said holdouts need to know the vaccine is free and that no health insurance or identification is required. Other keys to increasing vaccinations include making shots available at hours and locations convenient for working people, and having trusted community leaders and local health care workers encourage people to get inoculated.
“It’s going to be hard to close that gap,” she said. “I think we can do it. It’s just going to take a lot more effort.”
Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.