Washington state including race and ethnicity vaccination data in COVID dashboard

April 30, 2021 8:23 PM Matthew Kincanon Posted: April 30, 2021 8:23 PM Updated: May

Alessandra Tarantino

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced they are publishing race and ethnicity vaccination data on their COVID-19 data dashboard to help counties address inequities.

The county-level data were first released in a report on April 23 and include a race and ethnicity breakdown for people with at least one vaccine dose and people who are fully vaccinated.

For comparison purposes, the dashboard provides each county’s population distribution by race and ethnicity, including one set of percentages for people 16 and older and another for all ages.

Since race and ethnicity groups don’t always make up the same proportion of the population across all age groups, and only people 16 and older are currently eligible for vaccine, the most accurate comparison for understanding which groups may be underrepresented is using the population data for people 16 and older.

While data vary from county to county, there are some consistent trends. Hispanic people are underrepresented in the vaccinated population in nearly all counties, compared to their proportion of the county’s population. Similarly, Black people are underrepresented in almost all counties. In most counties, the race and ethnicity distribution for people with at least one dose is similar to fully vaccinated people, though there are some exceptions.

The data is being used by DOH to inform strategies for equitable vaccination, including identifying where more focused help is needed and prioritizing support for providers and community organizations addressing inequities.

“Publishing these data at the county level is an important step for transparency and a direct response to feedback we have received from communities,” said Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah. “This update reflects our commitment to pro-equity vaccination strategies and is another example of our ongoing efforts to gather and implement feedback from those most impacted by COVID-19.”

However, the data have some notable limitations. Race and ethnicity information is not available for everyone who is vaccinated, and is currently unavailable for about 6 percent of vaccinated people statewide. While providers must enter race and ethnicity when submitting vaccination data to DOH, they are able to report those categories as unknown.

Additionally, race and ethnicity categories don’t match up exactly between data sets. Vaccination data include an “Other” race category, which represents about 10 percent of vaccinated people statewide. This is part of a national standard for immunization data, but is not used in overall population data. DOH said this limits their ability to make conclusions based on these data.

The department said it recognizes the race and ethnicity categories used for these data do not fully capture the diversity of the state, and many communities do not see themselves within these existing data systems. It is working with partners to consider other community-informed processes for analysis and has started long-term infrastructure work to improve data equity.

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