Few Blacks Showing Up for Free Vaccines in L.A. County

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, November 11, 2009

Very few African Americans have used Los Angeles County’s free H1N1 vaccine clinics, public health officials told county leaders Tuesday, raising concerns about outreach to a community that, as a group, has a high risk for serious flu complications.

Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s public health director, expressed disappointment in the turnout by blacks but said he did not think the problem was a lack of clinic sites.

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African Americans received 2.57% of the initial 60,773 vaccinations countywide, although they make up about 9% of the county population, according to public health figures released Tuesday by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Within the South Los Angeles service area, where African Americans make up 32.4% of the population, they received 10.89% of the vaccines, county health records show.

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Although public officials chose locations throughout the county in hope of reaching diverse populations, the clinics were open to anyone. County statistics show that more Asians than African Americans were vaccinated at clinics held at South L.A. County locations. Asians make up less than 2% of the population in that area, according to county statistics.

Overall, Asians account for 13% of the county’s population but made up more than 27% of those vaccinated at the first county clinics. The Los Angeles Times/USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences poll of California voters found that Asians, by far, were the most likely to say they planned to get vaccinated. Whites and Latinos also were vaccinated at public clinics at rates lower than their overall county populations, but not by nearly as wide a margin as blacks.

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{snip} Blacks and Latinos are among those most at risk from H1N1 flu, primarily because they suffer disproportionately from asthma, diabetes and other health problems, and are four times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with H1N1 flu,

Loretta Jones, chief executive of South L.A.-based Healthy African American Families, said many patients she serves do not know where to get the vaccine and also question its safety. Some blame the distrust on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which lasted from 1932 to 1972, in which federal researchers withheld treatment from black men.

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Few African Americans stood in line at a county flu clinic at USC last week. Several black students walked by without stopping.

“I keep hearing the cases of people getting sick from the shot,” said Bridgette Jackson, 22, a senior from Riverside. “I’d just rather get the flu.”

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