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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

Shelby County Health Department outlines dramatic racial disparities in vaccine distribution so far

Numbers show among those 75 and older, whites are getting vaccinated at a much higher percentage compared to Blacks & Hispanics.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — "We have work to do. We are just beginning," Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Bruce Randolph said.

He's talking about closing a significant vaccine racial gap, which already stands out in the initial numbers.

In the more than 13,000 people 75 and older in Shelby County vaccinated to date, data showed more than 60% were non-Hispanic/Latino, nearly 40% unknown, but just 0.4%, only 47 people, listed at Hispanic or Latino.

"You can see that there is an obvious disparity in terms of our Hispanic and Latino community," Dr. Randolph said.

To encourage participation and discourage misinformation, a member of the Mexican Consulate Thursday - in both English and Spanish - reminded the public that Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE - does not conduct enforcement operations at vaccine sites, hospitals, or doctor's offices.

Staff at vaccine sites such as the Pipkin Building request proof of appointment, but nothing else.

"One of the things early on is that we said people may have to show their driver's license or their proof of residency. Those things we don't ask anymore, so we are committed to removing barriers for access," Shelby County Health Officer Dr. Alisa Haushalter said.

Dr. Haushalter said vaccine access improvements continue for all eligible groups and ethnicities.

An IT team is helping free up lines for call volume on the (901) 222-SHOT appointment line. Staff also alerted those on the standby list 'Vax Queue' for the first time Wednesday. And 75 people will soon be hired to answer appointment calls and administer shots.

"All of those things we need to continue to tweak as our volume goes up. We are going to have lessons learned and we need to apply those lessons," Dr. Haushalter said.

To assist getting vaccine access in minority communities, a site will open in Whitehaven and health leaders are finalizing a permanent vaccine site in the Frayser area.

Early Treatment for COVID-19 An effective early treatment is available for persons who test positive and have the following risk factors: Anyone over age 12 with obesity, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or whose immunity is compromised by disease or prescription treatments.