New SC vaccine data shows gender, racial gaps in vaccine administration

New SC vaccine data shows gender, racial gaps in vaccine administration

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - New data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control shows White women are getting vaccinated in the highest number statewide, while other groups are playing catch-up.

DHEC published the dashboard on Monday, with its data regularly updating.

The dashboard breaks down who has gotten vaccinated within the state by gender, race, and age.

It also includes information on ethnicity, and how many doses are being administered by county.

As of Feb. 13, the dashboard shows 512,814 people have been vaccinated in the state of South Carolina.

The data also shows the following:

  • 310,618 of those people are women of any age (60.6%)
  • 192,547 are White women of any age (37.5%)
  • 192,253 are women of any race are 65 and older (37.5%)
  • 64,053 are Black, male or female of any age (12.5%)
  • 25,885 are Black women 65 and older (5%)

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The US Census estimates 27 percent of South Carolina is African-American.

It also estimates 51.6 percent of people in South Carolina are female.

DHEC spokesperson Laura Renwick said the department would not be able to speak to the data on Tuesday but would address it in its regularly scheduled call with journalists on Wednesday.

DHEC is in the process of re-evaluating its distribution of vaccines within the state to make doses more readily available to rural and minority communities.

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The DHEC press release about the dashboard states in part:

“It’s key to understand that South Carolina is currently in Phase 1a of our statewide vaccination plan, so the demographic information currently available is largely based on those people who are eligible to receive vaccine in Phase 1a, which was predominantly only healthcare workers until mid-January. It’s not based on the state’s demographic breakdowns as a whole,” said Nick Davidson, DHEC’s Senior Deputy for Public Health.

About one-fifth of the state’s population is currently eligible to receive their shots: roughly 1.3 million people are within Phase 1a and the state’s total population is roughly 5.2 million. As more vaccine becomes available and more South Carolinians can receive their shots, the demographics dashboard will expand to provide additional information.

“This demographics data is meaningful for several reasons, but most importantly, as more people begin getting their shots in future phases of the vaccine plan, we’ll have a big-picture look at the types of people who may be lagging in receiving their shots,” Davidson said. “Having that information will allow us to directly connect with those communities and ensure they have fair and equal access to vaccines and ensure we as the state’s public health agency have a clear understanding of any limitations and can address those limitations immediately. South Carolina remains dedicated to the fair and equitable distribution of vaccine to everyone.”

South Carolina Hospital Association Vice President of Workforce and Member Engagement Lara Hewitt said the association can’t speak on what’s behind the disparities, but the large presence of women in the medical workforce is a contributing factor.

The South Carolina Office for Healthcare Workforce published a report showing 93 percent of registered nurses in South Carolina in 2018 are women.

In the study, women accounted for 38,678 nurses.

“Since healthcare workers were prioritized in Phase 1A and the large percentage of them are female, then that is clearly indicating where some of those numbers are showing that it’s tilted more toward females,” she said.

Additionally, the workforce report states that as of 2018, 79.9 percent of registered nurses in the state are White, that translated to 33,201 nurses.

Hewitt pointed to documented trends of women seeking healthcare more often than men. The U.S. Department of Labor backs that claim up, additionally showing mothers are more involved in health care decisions when children fall ill.

Prisma Infectious disease physician Dr. Divya Ahuja echoed this reasoning.

“It’s well known that women will access healthcare much more freely, much more openly than men will, and that same thing is translating into the vaccine now,” he said.

McLeod Health Vice President of Care Coordination and Homecare Services Lesli McGee pointed to the longer lifespan of women. The CDC reports women live an average of five years longer than men.

As a result, more elderly women can take the vaccine.

The numbers are expected to balance out as more people are vaccinated.

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