Fewer people in the Black and Hispanic communities are getting Covid-19 vaccinations compared to other groups, according to data from six Bay Area counties. 

The announcement in late March of an infusion of $8 million in state money is expected to help begin reaching those communities, where mistrust of the medical community, availability of vaccination sites, and lack of internet access has slowed vaccination efforts. 

California counties will split the money which will be used to set up additional vaccination sites, sign up residents to get shots through the state’s My Turn app and bring in people to talk to community members about the benefits of the vaccine. 

Data from the end of March show that in Alameda County, for instance, 24 percent of the eligible Hispanic population and 28 percent of the eligible Black population had been vaccinated. That compared to 37 percent of whites, and 34 percent of Asians. 

The highest vaccination rates for Black and Hispanic residents was in Marin County; the lowest in the more rural San Joaquin and Solano counties. 

 Historically, many people in the Black community have felt misled by the medical establishment, prompting fear of treatments like vaccines, said Dr. Michael Lenoir, an allergist, pediatrician and founder of the Oakland-based African American Wellness Project, which directs resources to empower Black people to improve their health.  

Lenoir cited as an example the Tuskegee study, in which a group of African American men with syphilis was left untreated so doctors could study the disease, 

“We were experimented upon,” Lenoir said. 

      While it’s true that some in the Black community may be hesitant to get vaccinated, it’s also true that Black people are willing to get a shot when it’s given by someone they trust, said Dr. Kim Rhoads, a cancer researcher at the University of California at San Francisco and COVID-19 activist. 

In Oakland, for instance, several African American churches have hosted successful vaccination events for community members.  

A Hispanic community activist said some people have found that the Internet portal to register for shots is cumbersome and wonder how the information is being used. Others lack Internet access altogether, said Christian Arana, vice president of policy for the Latino Community Foundation, a statewide advocacy group that advocates for the Hispanic population.  

“It’s important to remember there’s still a digital divide,” Arana said.   As in other minority communities, Arana said, Hispanics are much less hesitant to get the vaccine from people they trust, such as community-based groups. He said the foundation just invested $2 million across several Bay Area groups, such as La Clinica de La Raza and Accion Latina/El Tecolote, to help get more Hispanics vaccinated.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.