24,500 vaccinated against coronavirus in N.C.; just 8% were Black

The low percentage for Black residents may say less about race and more about how the state is prioritizing who gets the first doses.

At least 24,500 North Carolina residents have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, state health officials said Tuesday.

Here’s a breakdown (rounded) by race:

  • 81% White
  • 8% Black
  • 7% Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 4% Other
  • 1% American Indian or Alaskan Native

In Mecklenburg County, about 2,081 people have been vaccinated. No demographic data was made available.

So, what do the numbers tell us in a state where roughly 22% of the population is Black?

Not much, really. Under Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, priority is given to frontline health care workers and people who live or work in long-term care facilities.

Numbers rising

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Also, most hospitals in the state got their first shipment of the vaccine on Dec. 17, so the numbers released Tuesday offer little more than a first glimpse.

The nationwide push to administer the vaccine comes as the number of deaths, hospitalizations and daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 are reaching record levels and health officials are advising families to stay home this holiday season.

Nearly 489,000 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus since late March, when the first cases surfaced in the state. Since then, about 6,291 people in the state have died from related complications.

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In Mecklenburg County, about 378 Covid patients were in hospitals as of Dec. 20 – a record number – and at least 518 people had died in the county.

Meanwhile, Black residents continue to pay a high Covid toll, especially those with pre-existing health conditions.

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Among deaths not connected to outbreaks at long-term care facilities, nearly 42% of the county’s Covid-related deaths have been non-Hispanic Black residents, versus a county population that is about 32% Black.

Despite such grim statistics, a Pew Research Center survey found that just 42% of Black respondents nationwide said they’d be willing to get the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes widely available.

A phased approach

Here is an outline of the state’s vaccination plan:

Phase 1a

  • Health care workers at high risk for exposure to Covid-19—doctors, nurses, and all who interact and care for patients with Covid-19, including those who clean areas used by patients, and those giving vaccines to these workers.
  • Long-term care staff and residents— people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.

Phase 1b

  • Adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including conditions like cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease and Type 2 diabetes, among others.
  • Adults at high risk of exposure including essential frontline workers (police, food processing, teachers, child care), health care workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters, migrant and fishery housing with more than two chronic conditions.
  • Those working in prisons, jails and homeless shelters (no chronic conditions requirement).

Phase 2

  • Essential frontline workers, health care workers, and those living in prisons, homeless shelters or migrant and fishery housing.
  • Adults 65+
  • Adults under 65 with one chronic condition that puts them at risk of severe illness as defined by the CDC.

Phase 3

  • College and university students.
  • K-12 students when there is an approved vaccine for children.
  • Those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at lower risk of exposure.

Phase 4

  • Everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccination.

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