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Black New Yorkers less likely to get vaccine, state Health Department data shows

A runner with the Nassau County Department of

A runner with the Nassau County Department of Health carries a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Nassau Community College in Garden City on Jan. 30. Credit: Bloomberg / Johnny Milano

Black New Yorkers are far less likely to receive COVID-19 vaccines than other state residents, health department data shows.

Black seniors make up 13% of the state's residents 65 and older, but only 4% of those 65 and older who received at least the first dose of the vaccine are Black, according to demographic breakdowns that, the state announced Saturday, are now on its "COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker" website.

Only 5% of essential workers who have been vaccinated are Black, even though 17% of essential workers are Black, and 10% of hospital employees who have received the vaccine are Black, although they make up 17% of hospital workers.

Latino seniors also were underrepresented in vaccinations, the state data shows: 5% of those 65 and older who received a vaccine were Hispanic or Latino, even though Latinos compose 12% of New Yorkers 65 and older. Latino essential workers were disproportionately not receiving vaccines, although Latinos were slightly overrepresented among vaccinations for hospital employees, compared to their share of the state's hospital workers.

Experts have said that one reason Black residents are less likely to get vaccinated is a distrust of the health care system stemming from current and past bias and abuse that includes deliberately leaving hundreds of Black men untreated for syphilis in a federal study from the 1930s to the 1970s on the long-term progression of the disease.

The state Friday released results of a poll conducted by the Association for a Better New York that shows that Black New Yorkers are the most reluctant to get a vaccine: 39% of Black residents said they would obtain a vaccine as soon as it was available to them, compared with 54% of Hispanic and Asian New Yorkers and 78% of white residents.

Cuomo and officials in Nassau and Suffolk have said they have been working with trusted leaders in Black and other communities to increase confidence in the vaccine.

But Martine Hackett, an associate professor of health professions at Hofstra University and an expert on health inequities, said those efforts were not extensive enough and should have begun earlier. Governments have for years not done enough to build trust in the health care system, she said.

"To have trusted messengers is key for any type of public health endeavor, especially for one that’s of the urgency and importance as the COVID vaccine," she said.

The focus should not be only on community leaders, but also on training typical residents who can talk with friends and neighbors about vaccines, she said.

Cuomo and county officials have said they have tried to reach hard-hit populations by putting vaccination sites in communities with large Black and Latino populations. But Hackett said there should be more such sites, and, with demand for vaccines far exceeding the supply, some vaccine doses should be shifted from mass vaccination locations like Jones Beach to sites more accessible to Black residents that are "local, that are places that are trusted and that people can get to."

Asians were more likely to receive vaccinations than any other racial or ethnic group, compared with their share of eligible populations, the state data shows.

White hospital employees and essential workers were less likely to receive vaccines compared with their share of the population, but white seniors were slightly more likely, data shows.

The numbers for each eligible population exceed 100% because the state collects data both by ethnicity — Hispanic and non-Hispanic — and by race, so some people fall in two categories, a state official said.

Cuomo's office Saturday released statistics showing that the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York dropped to the lowest number since Dec. 27, as the percentage of positive coronavirus test results stayed level at 4.31%, the lowest rate since November.

But the 158 New Yorkers, including 24 Long Islanders, who died of COVID-19 on Friday were a reminder of the pandemic’s continuing toll, as Cuomo warned against large gatherings on Super Bowl Sunday that could further the spread of the virus.

"Super Bowl weekend is here and while the instinct may be to celebrate together, we cannot get cocky — we must continue doing the things we know are effective at taming the virus: Wear a mask, adhere to social distancing and avoid gatherings," the governor said in a statement.

The 7,804 hospitalizations on Friday were down from 7,937 on Thursday, part of a decline since Jan. 18, when, following a holiday and post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases, 9,273 people with COVID-19 were in New York hospitals, the highest number since early May.

Although Long Island’s numbers also have been falling, the region continued to have the state’s highest seven-day positivity rate: 5.57%. The statewide seven-day rate was 4.58%.

Of the 11,252 people who tested positive for the virus on Friday, 771 were in Suffolk County and 757 were in Nassau.

Fourteen Nassau residents and 10 Suffolk residents died of COVID-19 on Friday.

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