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Diana Sosa, RN, administers a vaccination to Alize Ayala Santos, 11, at a Yakima Valley Farm Workers mobile clinic Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, near North Fourth Avenue in Yakima.

Washington hospitals are working on efforts to make vaccine distribution more equitable.

Cassie Sauer, president and CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, led a panel discussion last week about new tools her organization has developed.

The first is a document created by WSHA to help identify high-risk communities, including people of color, people older than 75, people eligible for Medicaid or who are uninsured, older than 65 with significant health conditions, people with disabilities and people with limited English proficiency.

The outline includes a number of resources, such as a list of organizations and partners that could help providers work with vulnerable populations and a ZIP code and census tracker to zero in on who needs vaccines the most.

Sauer noted that the state Department of Health allows providers to have vaccine clinics for certain groups.

“I think there is some nervousness among vaccine providers about (whether you) could really reserve vaccine slots just for certain ZIP codes, or really reserve vaccine slots just for folks who are going to a food bank. And the Department of Health has reviewed this and provided great comments and is supportive of it,” she said.

WSHA’s Equity Vaccine Dashboard breaks data down further by including information about ethnicity, income and other factors.

The panel also discussed vaccine access for undocumented immigrants, which Sauer noted is a subject that causes some confusion since many states do not offer vaccines to those without legal immigration status.

“That is not the case in Washington state and our governor’s been very strong on this point,” Sauer said. “We need to be really explicit about that.”

State Department of Health studies have shown that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted people who are Black, Indigenous and Hispanic. People who are Hispanic have initiated 4.7% of vaccinations in the state, though they represent 13% of the state’s population. Black residents initiated 2.2% of vaccinations, and are 3.9% of the population, according to a February DOH report.

Some Seattle-area hospitals have faced criticism for giving donors special access to COVID-19 vaccines in January, a practice that was condemned by Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle’s mayor.

Margaux Maxwell reports for the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She can be reached at mmaxwell@yakimaherald.com.

Digital News Director

Margaux Maxwell reports for the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. She can be reached at mmaxwell@yakimaherald.com.