People of color in Utah are less likely to have received the COVID-19 vaccine than the white Utahns. This gap has been around since vaccinations began in December, and it has only widened since.
According to the Utah Department of Health, less than a third of eligible Native Americans in Utah are fully vaccinated, but in comparison, 60% of white Utahns are fully vaccinated.
Maurice “Mo” Smith, executive director of the Urban Indian Center in Salt Lake and a member of the Navajo Nation, said his organization is collecting research to understand why Native Americans are reluctant or what barriers prevent them from getting vaccinated. .
“We’re not unique when you look at the numbers across Utah,” Smith said. “I don’t think there is a unique character to being listed as a member of a tribe. “
However, some tribes in Utah report higher vaccination rates than the rest of the state. In April, the Navajo Nation had already half vaccinated of its adult population.
Smith said it was thanks to an effective message.
“In tribal communities and in tribal settings, the message is consistent, it’s clear,” he said. “Whereas in an urban setting, you have a whole range of messages. “
Smith said the Navajo Nation has been cautious in easing restrictions and that leaders have consistently encouraged tribal members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the message from Utah’s elected officials has been confusing, Smith said, as they politicized the wearing of a mask and the vaccine.
On average, about 550 people of color were vaccinated daily over the past week according to data from the Utah Department of Health.
That rate was about the same in most communities throughout the summer, although there was a bump among Hispanic or Latin American communities and Pacific Islanders in mid-August.
Utah received $ 30 million from CDC last spring to help immunize underserved communities.
“If there is a low vaccination rate in particular areas, then they are underserved because they do not get the vaccine,” said Rich Lakin, head of the vaccination program at the Department of Health. Utah.
He said most of that money went to Utah’s 13 local health departments, which were then tasked with figuring out how to close the immunization gap. Lakin said some departments have been successful with mobile vaccination units.