NYC Vaccine Rollout Is Becoming More Racially Equitable But Sizeable Gaps Still Exist

Disparities in vaccine uptake among the city’s racial and ethnic groups are slowly but surely ebbing, according to an analysis conducted by Gothamist/WNYC.

When the New York City Department of Health published its first breakdown of vaccine recipients at the end of January, white New Yorkers were receiving a disproportionate share of the doses, compared to their percentage of the city’s population. Fast forward by almost two months, and this racial gap has declined: white New Yorkers are now receiving 37% of the doses, which is still larger than the 32% of the city population they make up, but down 12 points since the numbers were first reported.

Likewise, the gap for Latino and Black New Yorkers has narrowed. Eight weeks ago, Latino communities comprised only 15% of New Yorkers who had received at least one dose, despite making up 29% of our city’s population. Today, that number has increased by 4 points to 19%. For Blacks, the percentage increased by 3 points, from 11 to 14%. That’s still far short of their 14% share of the overall population, but slowly improving. Asian New Yorkers also saw an increase in their share of the doses distributed, from 15% to 19%, compared to their 14% share of the city population.

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Two weeks after the racial data was first published, the city’s Department of Health released ZIP code breakdowns of vaccine distribution, which showed that wealthier, less diverse neighborhoods were receiving a disproportionate percentage of the doses. This pattern does not appear to have changed much over the intervening six weeks.

The map below shows the increase in percentage points for each ZIP code. It’s clear that while vaccination rates have jumped everywhere in the city, they have risen the most in the neighborhoods that were initially favored, preserving their overrepresentation:

Eventually, the wealthier, less diverse neighborhoods will hit a ceiling where all adults who are willing to be vaccinated will have received their doses. There are already ZIP codes on the Upper East Side where more than 50% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Once that saturation occurs, and as the city continues its efforts to open vaccine distribution points in poorer, less diverse neighborhoods, we should see the geographic gap begin to decline.

Overall, the city has made a lot of progress since vaccinations began in December. According to the most recent stats published, fully 32% of New York City adults have received one dose, and 17% have been fully vaccinated:

These percentages are even higher when looking at the city population by age: 58% of New Yorkers ages 65-74 have been vaccinated with at least one dose, and 54% of those ages 75-84. With 3.9 million doses already distributed, and nearly 80,000 given on recent weekdays, New York is getting ever closer to herd immunity and moving forward to a post-COVID era.

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