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Vaccine rollout sees large race and ethnicity gap

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Pima County Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz has been on the frontlines in the battle against COVID for almost a year. 

The emergency room doctor tells News 4 Tucson's Eric Fink in the last few months, he's personally treated more than 100 patients with the virus. 

"About 110 patients that I admitted to the hospital over the last three months since the surge, a significant portion, a disproportionately high portion of those folks are Latinos," Heinz said. 

This week, Arizona surpassed one million vaccinations since December.
Whites make up a majority of Arizonans who have been vaccinated.

However, the data does not provide a complete picture. According to numbers compiled by the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 300,000 people, almost 37 percent, chose not to disclose their race or ethnicity when getting the vaccine. 

The same data shows for those who did, just more than eight percent are Latino and fewer than two percent are African American. In Pima County as of Friday, nearly 14 percent of those individuals who received at least one dose of the vaccine are Latino.

"It is frustrating because we know Pima County is 38 percent Latino," Heinz said. 

Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen says she has committed her career to fighting for health equity and justice and she's concerned about the numbers. 

"The good news is I know we can change this," Cullen said. "The concerning news is that I know that our large pods, the state pods, even our large pods can contribute to that inequity."

Cullen said the county is working to find ways to better reach vulnerable and disadvantaged. 

But the setup of current vaccination sites, makes it difficult for some people. 

"Some of its related to the fact that it's a drive through," Cullen said.

"There's not a bus. You can't take Sun Tran and go through one of the pods. So, we in a sense automatically have created difficulties for certain sub-populations that we know are most at risk".

Cullen said the county wants to expand its mobile vaccine clinics but at the moment, that's largely dependent on having enough vaccine supply. 

Pima County is set to receive 16,300 Moderna doses next week. This is the second consecutive week the county allotment has been under 20,000 doses.

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Eric Fink

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