As Covid-19 cases continue to trend downwards and vaccination rates upwards, the Department of Public Health is working to combat “completely unacceptable” inequities in vaccine distribution.

Preliminary data on the County’s vaccination rollout showed that Black residents are getting vaccinated at roughly half the rate of white and Asian residents.

While 18 percent of the white and Asian population aged 65 and over had received at least one dose by Feb 4, this number was only 7.2 percent for Black residents and 14.3 percent for Latino residents.

“The inequities we saw with respect to cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been reflected so far in the vaccine administration. This is completely unacceptable,” said County Supervisor Hilda Solis.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health is tackling this problem by addressing access to vaccination sites and building trust in minority communities.

Starting next week mobile teams will bring vaccinations directly to government run homeless encampments, senior housing developments, and senior centers in LA’s hardest hit communities.

“We think that this model will help address the issue of mobility and access once we scale up these teams,” said Solis. “Equity is not just a buzzword — It must be a central tenant to the way we make policy and deliver our services.”

The County is also bringing more vaccination sites into the hardest hit communities, including a new federal community vaccination center at Cal State Los Angeles, which will open on Feb. 16.

“You will also have community health workers in highly impacted communities, who at times may be going block-by-block to provide information to residents about how to get vaccinated to help them sign up, and to dispel myths and misinformation about the vaccine,” said LACDPH Director, Barbara Ferrer.

Health officials said vaccine supply continues to be the biggest constraint on distribution, but expressed hope that this will improve in the coming weeks. Currently, there are no more appointments this week available for first doses as 55 percent of this week’s shipment is reserved for second doses.

As of Feb. 1, the County had received more than 1.2 million doses and administered more than 1 million — reflecting an approximately 82 percent rate of vaccination.

According to Ferrer, vaccination of education and childcare workers, food and agriculture workers, emergency responders and law enforcement officers will begin in a couple weeks.

Despite pressure from LAUSD superintendent Superintendent Austin Beutner to guarantee 25,000 doses for teachers and staff to reopen elementary schools, Ferrer said LACDPH will not make commitments to any district until they know what future vaccine allocations are.

County case counts are predicted to reach the threshold to allow for elementary schools to reopen in the next few weeks as the surge continues to abate.

The seven day average of daily cases has dropped by 77 percent since peaking at over 15,000 on Jan. 8. On Monday, the County reported 2741 new cases and a seven day average of just under 5,000.

Deaths and hospitalizations are also declining.

There was a 42 percent decrease in daily hospitalizations from over 8000 in early January to 4608 on Feb 2. Daily death counts decreased by 44 percent from the beginning of January to the end of the month, but still often reach over 200 a day.

Officials called on all residents to remain vigilant and continue abiding by the health regulations to ensure these numbers don’t rise again, especially given the risk posed by more contagious variants.

Clara@smdp.com