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Concerns over low AAPI vaccination rates among elderly San Diegans

Black and Asian/Pacific Islander have lowest rates.
AAPI elderly community
Posted at 5:35 PM, Mar 29, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- As more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, some health experts are worried vaccinations are not reaching the most vulnerable in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

In California, vaccine eligibility will open to all adults in mid-April.

With recent events in the Asian American community, some are worried about those eligible now.

“We’re concerned that a lot of the elderly Asian Americans are fearful of recent waves of anti-Asian violence and racism,” said Dr. Maria Rosario Araneta with UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Araneta is also the Assistant Dean of Diversity and Community Partnerships.

Dr. Araneta said that pattern is already emerging in the Bay Area.

“Vaccination at the Moscone Center, which is their super vaccination site, seems to be missing specifically, elderly Chinese,” Dr. Araneta said. “My sister works in Oakland Chinatown. She's had so many elderly Chinese cancel their medical appointments.”

When it comes to residents in San Diego County 65 and older who already received one dose, the Black community vaccination rate is the lowest at about 48 percent. The Asian/Pacific Islander community is 55 percent.

In February, ABC 10News highlighted the Black Nurses Association partnering with local churches to hold vaccination events.

“Just knowing someone who looks like you is providing this service does make a difference,” Dr. Robert Gillespie told ABC 10News. Dr. Gillespie is the medical director of the Black Nurses Association and a member of Bethel AME, which was one of the first churches to host an event.

Dr. Araneta said in the AAPI community, language is a huge barrier. “Among the AAPI communities, that’s multiple languages,” she said. “Not knowing which languages are urgently essential for intentional outreach becomes critical in prevention efforts.”

She also said with all Asians/Pacific Islanders lumped into one category, it is hard to see which communities need more outreach. She added that the information can be useful not only for COVID-19, but also future outbreaks.

“How are we going to be able to discern whether it’s in the Filipino or Vietnamese or Karen community? How will we know which communities to intentionally and rapidly target?” Dr. Araneta said.

Throughout the day on Monday, UC San Diego Health provided vaccines to refugees and asylum-seeking communities, including the Karen, Somali, and Vietnamese communities. “We have the tools to target certain neighborhoods. We just need to know who and where,” she added.

A spokesperson with the county said that they are following guidelines put forward by the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

“Additionally, the hospital systems statewide do not include these categories in the information reported to us,” wrote Sarah Sweeney with the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. She added that the county works with various partner organizations to reach as many people as possible.

Dr. Araneta also encourages AAPI leaders—including those in religious organizations—to reach out to her for questions in how to vaccinate those in their community. Her contact information is