Race and Gender Disparities in LA County’s COVID Vaccinations

Data recently released by LA County shines a light on some fascinating (and troubling) trends in terms of who in the county has been vaccinated.

Nearly 5 million doses have already been administered in total through April 9th, across the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is certainly an impressive accomplishment from a public-health perspective, and will only continue to rise once the entire adult population becomes eligible for the vaccine on April 15th.

However, we are seeing some concerning gaps emerge in terms of who has actually received those “jabs” (as the Brits would call it). Take a look at the graphic below, which breaks down what % of eligible adults, by race and gender, have received at least one dose of a vaccine to date:

Vaccination Rates by Race and Gender

The starkness of these racial and gender differences raises so many questions about why these gaps are present, but it’s so hard to find a smoking gun on exactly what is driving the different outcomes:

  • I think the case is more straightforward from a race perspective - economic inequality is very sharp along racial lines, and the County has struggled to communicate with communities of color on how, where, and why to receive the vaccine - despite a concerted focus on “Equity areas” in vaccine distribution
  • Residents from wealthy areas (more likely to be White and Asian) have also “gone mobile”, taking the time to seek out and find vaccine appointments throughout the County, whereas Black and Latinx residents are less likely to travel for an appointment, and also more likely to work a frontline job, making scheduling and access more difficult
  • The gender case is less clear, as the vaccination gap for Men is both consistent across races and also shocking large - consistently 30% lower than women of the same race
  • I think it’s fair to expect that some amount of the variance could be explained by women being over-represented in some of the Front-Line occupations, particularly when one thinks of nurses and teachers
  • However, the number of workers in those groups is significantly smaller than the sum total of other vaccine-eligible groups, for which we’d expect to see a much less-gender biased sample of people: food and agriculture workers, transportation workers, and all residents over 50 years of age, which makes me think that simply differences in gender representation don’t tell the whole story
  • One factor which may be coming through in the data is the fact that men are more likely to be Republicans or identify as “conservative”, which as a group are much less likely to want to be vaccinated. Per a recent article in the National Review, “only 46 percent of Republicans already had been vaccinated or were interested in getting vaccinated, compared to 79 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents”
  • While LA County skews quite liberal on the whole, it’s interesting to wonder about how much this “conservative male reluctance” skew plays in combination with occupational eligibility differences…

I’m sure there’s a ton I haven’t thought of here, but the data is so interesting that I felt compelled to sort through it and think it over for a bit - will be curious if others have strong suspicions about other factors!