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As new COVID-19 variant looms, vaccination disparities linger in King County

County data shows gaps among age, geography and race.

On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization classified a new COVID-19 variant, called B.1.1.529 (or “Omicron”) as a “variant of concern.” There are currently no confirmed Omicron cases in the U.S. as of this writing. However, some leaders and public health experts are concerned about how infectious it could be and the impact it could have.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending many of the same things for folks to protect themselves from the spread of this variant and any others including mask wearing, handwashing and social distancing. They are also continuing to encourage people over age 5 to get vaccinated and for those who are already vaccinated to get the booster shot.

As one of the first places in the country to confirm COVID-19 cases in early 2020, King County is also one of the first high-population counties to reach its goal of full vaccination for over 70 percent of residents.

Since vaccinations have been rolled-out to the public, King County has reached 73 percent full vaccination, with 80.7 percent receiving at least one dose. But vaccination disparities still exist across different regions, ages and ethnicities in the county.

For example, the elderly in King County are far more likely to have been vaccinated with the population of individuals between ages 50 and 64 nearing 92% full-vaccination across all races and ethnicities and those older than 65 recording more than 95% full-vaccination in the county.

Currently, only 46.8 percent of King County residents between ages 5 and 24 have been fully vaccinated. There are regional disparities that exist among that age group as well, with both South King County (Auburn, Kent, Federal Way) and Southeast King County being the only two subregions in the county with less than 40 percent full vaccination among the age 5 to 24 group.

Of the over 131,000 five-to-nine-year-olds in the county, none have been fully vaccinated, but about 30 percent have received their first dose. Residents ages 10 to 19 have recorded 57.7 percent full vaccination among their demographic, with 69 percent receiving at least one dose.

A United States Census Bureau Household Pulse survey asked parents why they were hesitant to get their kids vaccinated. The parents all had children ages 12 to 17, but the results still give an idea of some of the sentiments shared among hesitant parents.

Of the parents surveyed in Washington state, 55 percent said they were concerned about the side effects of the vaccine, a lower percentage than most of the other states surveyed; 36 percent said they were not sure if their children needed it, a higher percentage than most states; 33 percent said they were waiting to see if the vaccine was safe; and 47 percent said they did not trust the government, a higher percentage than the broad majority of states.

When looking at vaccination rates among different racial and ethnic groups, the data seems to indicate that white, Black and Latinx residents are relatively behind in full-vaccination rates when compared to the other groups.

In residents ages 5 and older, the Latinx population has recorded 64 percent full vaccination, the Black population has recorded 69 percent, and the white population has recorded 73 percent full vaccination. This may not seem that far behind, but Asian, Pacific-Islander and Indigenous populations average around 92 percent vaccination rates collectively.

Among the younger demographics between ages 5 and 24, roughly 38 percent of residents have to receive even a single dose of the vaccine. Among Black and Latinx residents in the 5 to 24 age group, both populations are 47 percent unvaccinated in any form. White residents in the same age group are a little over 42 percent unvaccinated.


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