Report: Maryland is Among Nation’s ‘Most Improved’ for Vaccine Equity

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Maryland is one of just seven states to cut its Black vaccine equity gap in half, according to a Bloomberg analysis posted Thursday.

Although the state still has an above-average gap in the percentage of African-Americans to receive a shot relative to their share of the population, efforts to reach people of color — which Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) has described as an “all hands on deck” campaign — appear to be yielding some results.

“Our hard work is starting to pay off,” said Maryland National Guard Brigadier General Janeen Birckhead. “We have worked very hard, non-stop, with local [health] departments, community stakeholders, to serve the under-served and to bridge the health outcome gaps that exist.”

Birckhead, who was tapped by Hogan in January to lead the state’s Vaccine Equity Task Force, spoke to reporters on Wednesday.

According to Bloomberg, 23.4% of Black residents here have received at least one shot. African-Americans represent 29.9% of the population. The gap, 6.5%, is less than half what it was over the winter.

Maryland has taken steps to reach majority-minority communities, partially in response to pressure from state lawmakers and local leaders:

  • The first four mass-vaccination sites were located in majority-Black jurisdictions;
  • The state Department of Health enlisted prominent people of color — ministers, political leaders, educators and others — to serve as “ambassadors” for the “Go VAX” campaign;
  • Maryland leaders convinced FEMA to locate a vaccination clinic in at the Greenbelt Metro station, on the system’s Green line, just off the Capital Beltway;
  • The health department has opened “pop-up” and mobile vaccination clinics and offered shots at churches and community centers in neighborhoods of color;
  • M&T Bank Stadium recently hosted a “Faith Leaders United” event at which clergy from different denominations and their families were vaccinated; and
  • The state engaged family physicians, providing doses to health professionals with existing patient relationships.

State lawmakers and county health officers pressed Health Secretary Dennis Schrader and his team for months over the winter to improve their outreach strategy. Local leaders begged for more vaccines, arguing that their health departments were better positioned to reach people of color.

In early March, the state’s Black vaccination gap stood at nearly 14%, more than double the current rate.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that 47.5% of Asian-American people in Maryland have received a vaccine. More than 43% of white residents, 30.7% of Black people and 24.3% of Latino residents have received one.

In every state in the nation, the percentage of Black residents to receive a shot is lower than their share of the population.

Maryland’s gap — 6.5% — remains one of the largest. Three Southern states — South Carolina, Florida and Georgia — have gaps that are bigger. In the District of Columbia, which is 46.3% African-American, only 36.7% of Black residents have received a vaccine.

Maryland’s outreach to Hispanic residents remains a work in progress. Six percent of the state’s vaccines have gone to Latino Marylanders, according to Bloomberg. Hispanic people represent 10 percent of the state’s population.

The Hispanic gap here is significantly smaller than many other states. In Colorado, for example, the gap is 13%. In Nevada, it is 8%.

Bloomberg cautioned that there are many imperfections in the nation’s vaccination data.

Some recipients are reluctant to provide information about their race or ethnicity. Some data get reported incorrectly. Some states didn’t begin collection data on the race and ethnicity of vaccine recipients early in the campaign. A few states don’t collect demographic data at all, and in two states the data is “difficult to use.”

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.