'It was a key priority': UW Health discusses equitable vaccine distribution

NOW: ’It was a key priority’: UW Health discusses equitable vaccine distribution

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- UW Health says they've made it a priority to distribute the vaccine in an equitable fashion. 

UW Health says it prioritized invitations to those at higher risk, including Black, Latinx and Native American patients 65 and older. 

The health group says 50% of Native American patients have received at least one dose of the vaccine, followed by 44% of Latinx patients, 39% of Black patients, and 35% of white patients. 

"We know that COVID-19 has really very much disproportionally impacted our Black, Latinx, and Native American communities. We have seen a much higher rate of hospitalization and deaths among those communities, so knowing those communities have suffered disproportionally, it’s really important to make sure we prioritize them to receive vaccine so those communities are really protected," said Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, vice president and chief diversity officer at UW Health. 

On the state level, the Department of Health Services says there's work to do. 

"All of the people of color are lagging behind the coverage rates for white Wisconsinites," said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, "This is a point that we are all deeply focused on and concerned on how do we make sure there is adequate vaccine where people of color live."

Data from DHS shows that 16% of white residents in Wisconsin have received at least one dose. By comparison, 5.4% of Black residents in Wisconsin have received at least one dose. 

Willems Van Dijk says there are steps DHS is taking. 

"Assured that we would give the full allocation to all of federally qualified community health centers."

She says they'll also be looking at other providers and the allocation formula. 

"To those providers who have been vaccinating a higher percentage of people of color, will receive a boost in vaccine supply," Willems Van Dijk. 

The state plans to announce who will be in phase 1c next week. 

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