RICHMOND, Va. -- New statistics released by the Richmond-Henrico Health District revealed big disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates regarding the city’s youth. Dr. Melissa Viray and other health experts held a Zoom press conference revealing the eye-opening figures Thursday morning.
The health district estimated that almost 80 percent of white children, ages 12 through 17, are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Approximately 70 percent of Latinx teens have received their COVID-19 shot.
But that number drops dramatically among the young Black population in Richmond estimating just 30 percent were vaccinated.
“The proportion of [white] kids vaccinated is two to three times higher than Black kids and teens of the same age group,” Viray said.
The health district’s Director of Health Equity Jackie Lawrence said outside forces may be to blame for the vaccination disparity like lack of transportation or childcare, lower-income, and an increase in violence in some Black communities.
“It may not be the first priority and first thing they’re reading,” Lawrence said. “When they’re navigating through other life circumstances and other life stresses, maybe they do want to get that vaccine, or do they want to take time to read through that literature, but there’s just so much going on.”
Lawrence believed social media has played a major part in spreading lies about the vaccine.
“The way algorithms work on social media, if you click one thing it’s going to give you more misinformation right behind that. What that does is continue to drill down misinformation,” she stated.
Approximately 68 percent of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and 62 percent of deaths due to the coronavirus are among the Black population, Lawrence said.
“If this is already the case, we need to think about what the Fall and Winter look like? What does the coming months ahead look like if we continue to do everything we can do to reduce the spread?” she asked.
Dr. Richard Bennett, a pediatrician working in Church Hill, said he was not surprised after learning about the disparities.
“There is miseducation, and missed opportunities to vaccinate children as well as mistrust,” Bennett said. “So, a lot of misses in the community in people of color and lower social economic people, as well.”
The health experts recognize they have a lot of work to make up the gap and reach children inside the schools, churches, or out in the community, like sports leagues.
The longtime doctor shared his advice for parents who are concerned about getting their children vaccinated.
“The biggest endorsement I can say is I would give it to my children,” Bennett said. “The way I look at it, I won’t do anything to anyone else’s child that I wouldn’t do to mine.”