NORWOOD NEWS: Bronx Has Lowest Citywide Vaccination Rate; Survey Aims to Find Attitudes to Vaccine

As the Bronx ranks lowest, at 35 percent, in terms of COVID-19 vaccination rates out of all five boroughs, Bronxites are being invited to take part in a research study that aims to understand Bronx communities’ attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Nancy Kheck, director of health and human services at the Bronx Borough President’s Office, is working together with Dr. Damara Gutnick, senior director at the Office of Community and Population Health at Montefiore Health System on the survey. Norwood News previously reported in mid-February on the relatively low vaccination rates achieved in some parts of the borough (including in Norwood and adjacent areas) compared to other parts of the borough like Riverdale, which had higher vaccination rates. The Bronx also had lower rates compared to other parts of the city. Earlier this month, we also reported on the efforts by the Bronx Community 7 health committee to increase the vaccination rates.

NYC vaccination rates by borough as of April 12, 2021

Source: NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

According to vaccination data recorded by the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOH&MH) as of April 12, the Bronx’s vaccination rate of 35 percent is lower than the citywide average of 41 percent, and is also lower than all other borough vaccination rates.

As of April 12, the vaccination rate in Brooklyn was 37 percent, in Manhattan, 51 percent, in Queens, it was 42 percent and on Staten Island, it was 44 percent.

Data shows that vaccination numbers have typically been lower across the U.S. in poorer communities, and in Black and Brown communities. The Bronx, New York City’s poorest borough and once COVID-19’s epicenter, had just 69 locations at which to receive the inoculation in mid February 2021. That was half the number of sites available in Manhattan, despite it having roughly the same population. This is reflective of national trends.

COVID-19 cases in ZIP code 10467 as of April 12, 2021

Source: New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

The pause placed on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 13, as reported by The Hill, raised new concerns that this may further discourage residents who were already skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine, from getting vaccinated. However, one of the key reasons behind the low vaccination rates is the cost of administering vaccines, according to nonprofit, Bronx Rising Initiative. Each vaccine requires approximately $75 to administer, including staffing, overhead, supplies, etc. Yet medicaid and medicare only cover approximately $15 of this cost, according to the nonprofit, which has been covering these costs for local clinics in the Bronx. This has left local clinics – the ones marginalized communities know and trust and where they are more likely to turn for medical care – scrambling to afford the vaccines. As of the end of March, the Bronx Rising Initiative, which launched in 2020, had funded the vaccinations of over 3,500 Bronx residents, through clinics and pop-ups at public housing since the beginning of the year. With eligibility now expanded to all adults in New York, coveted vaccine spots which already require access to the internet and transportation, are being rapidly filled, leaving seniors, especially those who are homebound, with few to no options of getting vaccinated.

NYC Vaccination coverage per ZIP code as of April 12, 2021

Source: New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene

To address this, the Bronx Rising Initiative has launched, a homebound vaccine initiative to solve this problem, and inoculate Bronx seniors where they live, in partnership with local community organizations which are already serving homebound seniors. Residents can sign-up here.

In the meantime, on Friday, April 29, a CDC vaccine advisory committee recommended that the nationwide pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine should be lifted following the completion of the investigation, as reported by The Hill.

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 10-4 with one abstention, that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks, and that it will save lives, according to The Hill report.