Sisolak establishes new equity initiative as working class communities hit hard by COVID-19 slow to receive vaccine

Sisolak establishes new equity initiative as working class communities hit hard by COVID-19 slow to receive vaccine

Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced a new initiative to address what he described as alarming disparities in the rate at which working class families, lower income households and communities of color are receiving the vaccine in Clark County.

Under the new initiative, state officials will work with Clark County Emergency Management and the Southern Nevada Health District on the vaccination process in order to clarify the state’s prioritization lanes, ensure “fair access” to vaccines through the selection of vaccination sites and overall “equitable allocation” of the vaccine across the county. Updates on the initiative’s progress will be provided at weekly COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force meetings.

Earlier this week, Southern Nevada Health District officials announced that 40 percent of people who have received the vaccine in Clark County are white, 11 percent are Asian, 10 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Black or African American, 16 percent are other and 16 percent are unknown. 

In Clark County, 29 percent of the population is white, 31 percent is Hispanic or Latino, 12 percent are Black or African American, 11 percent are Asian American and Pacific Islander, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sisolak, in a video address posted to YouTube Friday morning, said that those numbers, as well as additional data sent to the governor’s office, show that Clark County is experiencing an “equity crisis” with regard to vaccine distribution.

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“It must stop. As a former Clark County commissioner, I know these ZIP codes well. I am alarmed at what I am seeing,” Sisolak said. “What the data shows is clear. There’s a disparity and who is receiving the vaccine that does not reflect the demographics of that region.”

Data obtained by The Nevada Independent show that the ZIP code with the highest number of vaccinations in Clark County is 89052, which includes the affluent retirement community of Sun City Anthem in Henderson. The ZIP code with the second-highest number of vaccinations is 89074 is Green Valley, also in Henderson, followed by 89117, which includes Peccole Ranch and the Lakes, near Summerlin.

Other ZIP codes with high numbers of vaccines administered: 89135 (Summerlin), 89148 (Rhodes Ranch), 89123 (Silverado Ranch), 89129 (the Lone Mountain area in Northwest Las Vegas), 89012 (Green Valley and Macdonald Ranch), 89131 (Centennial Hills) and 89134 (Sun City Summerlin.) All those ZIP codes are among the most affluent parts of town.

The communities with the fewest number of vaccinated residents, by contrast, are largely concentrated in East Las Vegas, the working class neighborhood where a significant portion of Las Vegas’s Hispanic population lives. Those ZIP codes have also experienced some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic.

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“That makes no sense,” Sisolak said. “These zip codes represent Southern Nevada’s working class families, lower income households, and communities of color.”

Southern Nevada Health District spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said in an email Friday morning that the district has been working closely with its state and local partners to distribute vaccines “as equitably as possible and in keeping with the State’s Vaccine Playbook.” She said the health district has been working to “refine” its vaccine distribution strategies as it receives more data and demographic information about who is receiving the vaccine.

“We are working hard to ensure every person 70 years of age and older who wants the vaccine is able to get it before expanding to other groups,” Sizemore said. “We share the Governor’s concern, and our pleased to hear that he wants the available vaccine supply directed to those who need it the most and will work with us to address the current inequities.”

Explore the graphic below to compare numbers of vaccines administered and COVID-19 cases by ZIP code:

Data obtained by the Independent also show that health care workers make up most of Clark County’s vaccinated population, at 41.5 percent, followed by seniors 70 and older, at 30.5 percent. Public safety and security workers make up another 7.7 percent, followed by frontline community support at 1.9 percent and frontline supply chain and logistics — a group that Clark County has not yet announced is eligible for vaccination — at 0.01 percent. Another 18.4 percent of vaccinated individuals fall into an unknown category.

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The new initiative also plans to focus on reports of Nevada’s COVID-19 Vaccination Playbook not being followed and how that may be contributing to an “unfair allocation of vaccines, confusion among the public, and access to vaccines by ineligible groups or individuals,” according to the governor’s office.

The new effort can also be directed to focus on equity and fairness issues in vaccine distribution in other parts of the state, too, should those arise.

The Washoe County Health District announced earlier this week that only 11 percent of their vaccines have been distributed to Hispanic or Latino residents, while 24.4 percent of the county’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We’ll continue to work to try to make sure that we have vaccine available as it’s available dispensed equitably in our communities,” Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said on a press call on Wednesday.

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