As More Arizonans Get Vaccinated, Disparities Continue

Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - 4:14pm
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Father Enrique Cadena with the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona rolled up his sleeve at a press event Wednesday along with other faith leaders to get his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. He said he wanted to set an example for his community. 

“I'd like to invite all the Latino community especially to really put themselves out there in the line as soon as the vaccine is ready for them," Cadena said. 

One in every seven Arizonans has now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But disparities remain when it comes to who’s getting shots. Vaccination rates appear to be especially low among Arizona’s Latino population.

Vaccines have so far only been available to prioritized groups based on age or occupation, and those populations are not a perfect cross section of Arizona’s overall demographics. But Latinos make up more than 30% of the population and only 8% of the state’s vaccine recipients so far, according to state data

Dr. Shad Marvasti with the University of Arizona College of Medicine told KJZZ’s The Show disparities in the vaccine rollout are a concern, since racial and ethnic minority groups have been disproportionately hard-hit by the virus.

“Right now folks who have transportation, a car, internet access as well as internet literacy really have been favored in this, so folks with means. But what we need to do is get to those who do not have the means,” Marvasti said. 

Many Arizonans have reported difficulty using the state's online vaccine registration website. But language has been a significant barrier to getting an appointment.  Vaccination had been going on for two months in Arizona before the website was updated to include a Spanish language option.

→ Q&AZ: What You Need To Know About Getting The Coronavirus Vaccine In Arizona

Arizona Department of Health Services director Dr. Cara Christ said her department is continuing to look for ways to improve the website and to increase vaccine access. She said Wednesday her department is planning town hall-style informational events in targeted ZIP codes and is looking for additional ways of administering vaccines. 

“As we get more vaccine, we’re trying to get more community based and local vaccination sites," Christ said. "So places like community college, churches, where people live nearby to make sure that there's not a barrier due to transportation or something, and that people feel comfortable to go get vaccinated." 

Christ said the limiting factor to all of the state's vaccination efforts is still vaccine supply.