Washtenaw County releases COVID-19 vaccination data, revealing racial disparity in distribution

Last week the Washtenaw County Health Department announced a new COVID-19 vaccination data page that breaks down vaccinated residents by demographics including age, gender, ethnicity, race, and ZIP code.


As of Tuesday, approximately 24,287 vaccine doses have been administered by the health department. The data page also includes the percentage of county residents vaccinated to date from a state database called the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, which doesn't include doses administered through the Ann Arbor VA health system. That state data shows that 20.1% of Washtenaw County residents 16 years of age and older have received at least one vaccine dose. 47.5% of Washtenaw County residents 65 years of age and older have received at least one vaccine dose.


The health department’s vaccine data includes an ongoing vaccination clinic at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, now operating with staff from St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. It also includes vaccines provided through the department's Nurse on the Run mobile team and targeted pop-up clinics.


"We're still at a very early point in vaccine distribution," says health department spokesperson Susan Ringler-Cerniglia. "Having this information openly available is really important for everyone to understand where we are and what we need to do in the future."


As eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine expands beyond health care workers and essential workers, Ringler-Cerniglia says there will be a focus on remedying the racial disparities evidenced on the new data page.


White residents, for example, have received 12,348 (first) doses and account for 78% of total doses. Black or African American residents, by contrast, have received 1,295 (first) doses and account for 8% of total doses. Numbers for Hispanic or Latino residents are also stark: 382 have received (first) doses, accounting for 2.4% of total doses. 2019 Census estimates show that white, Black or African American, and Hispanic or Latino residents respectively make up 74.2%, 12.3%, and 4.9% of the county's overall population.


Ringler-Cerniglia says health department staff will be more specifically focused on ensuring they're reaching populations and groups that may have a harder time getting to vaccination sites, those who might be hesitant or distrustful of the process, and residents who may be unable to use the existing registration processes.


"COVID-19 has had disproportionate impacts on many of our communities, particularly our communities of color. We know there is a lot more work for us to do to rectify that moving forward," Ringler-Cerniglia says.


The new data page will be updated weekly on Tuesdays. Ringler-Cerniglia advises carefully reading the labels of the data tables if only glancing at the data.


"The big green box gives an overall sense of the proportion of folks in the county who have been vaccinated," she says, “But we are not the only ones vaccinating. So it’s important to distinguish those doses given by the health department and those administered overall in Washtenaw County."


For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.


Photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Health Department.

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