California and Texas, the two most populous states in the country, have taken radically different approaches to fighting the pandemic and the vaccination campaign to end it.
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California has expressed its confidence in science and politics which it believes are aimed at improving social justice.
Texas state officials have stressed individual rights and protecting the economy, often ignoring public health warnings, but promoting vaccination – calling it a personal choice.
California’s commitment to justice doesn’t seem to have brought the state to Texas in vaccinating Latinos, who make up roughly 40% of the population in both states. Latinos have suffered disproportionately from Covid because the poorest tend to live in overcrowded apartments, receive poorer health care and are more likely to work outside the home.
In California, by April 12, 22% of Hispanics had been vaccinated; in Texas 21%.
According to a recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas generally did much better than California in the first few months of vaccine distribution in reaching high-risk groups. Texas was seventh on the list; California was penultimate fifth.
Overall, however, California’s pandemic metrics were better. 49% of Californians 16 years and older were partially or fully vaccinated compared to 43% of Texans.
The two states were neck to neck until a severe winter storm in February turned off power to much of Texas for a week. “We never really recovered after that and exactly why beyond our size is not entirely clear,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
California is also doing a lot better when it comes to fighting infection. The state’s seven-day average as of April 15 is 52.7 cases and 1.8 deaths per 100,000, with an average positivity rate of 1.5% for seven days. Texas now ranks 73.3 cases and 1.5 deaths per 100,000, with an average positivity rate of 7% over seven days.
The heads of state have responded differently to these metrics. California Governor Gavin Newsom has set June 15 as the day to end most pandemic restrictions, barring major setbacks. However, he plans to continue to require the wearing of masks in public and in high-risk workplaces. Meanwhile, on March 10, Texas Governor Greg Abbott allowed all companies to fully reopen and lifted a nationwide mask mandate.
The concept of individual freedom plays a good role in Texan politics and was at the fore during the pandemic and the introduction of the vaccine. While the Texans have been encouraged to protect themselves against the spread of the coronavirus, they have also opposed efforts by local authorities to enforce such measures.
While Newsom introduced one of the earliest and strictest state bans in the country on March 19, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton initially described local mask mandates and business restrictions as “unlawful and unenforceable”. Abbott finally introduced a mask mandate and other restrictions in July after a surge in disease. These measures met with resistance from within his own party. Texas Republican chairman Allen West led a protest outside the governor’s mansion in October.
Against this tense political backdrop, Texas leaders have been softer in their vaccination news compared to California. Both governors got their vaccinations on live television, but each offered different messages about how their constituents should watch the footage.
Abbott celebrated the state in an April 8 tweet Reaching 13 million vaccinations, and added, “These vaccination shots are always voluntary.” This gentle message is also expressed in Abbott’s attitude towards masks. Despite the order being lifted in early March, the governor continues to urge residents to use it.
Texas public health experts have been frustrated by what they see as a half-hearted endorsement of public health action. “It’s psychotic to hear two very different messages,” said Dr. Andrea Caracostis, CEO of Houston HOPE Clinic, which serves minorities and immigrants. “Vaccines weren’t just made for your individual protection. They were made for the good of the community. It is a message that has been lost in our society. “
Newsom, on the other hand, talks about vaccines in terms of responsibility to others. “Vaccination is an important step we can take to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community, and it brings us many times closer to ending this pandemic,” Newsom said on April 1 when he received his vaccination .
Newsom’s oft-repeated “North Star” value is justice – the notion that the well-being of those most affected by the pandemic should be vital in the fight against them. As of March 4, his government allocated 40% of its vaccines to neighborhoods, which have seen 40% of cases and deaths. California has also invested $ 52.7 million to fund more than 300 Trusted Messenger community organizations to distribute vaccines. He didn’t allow the general public for vaccination until April 15, giving priority to more vulnerable and vulnerable groups. Texas opened the vaccine faucet fully on March 29th.
According to Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, California’s efforts to vaccinate racial and ethnic minorities and be the most at risk, despite heavy investment in public health and attention to these communities, are raising issues State decisions on approving vaccines are based on, said Elizabeth Wrigley-Field.
Both Texas and California, like many states, were the first to vaccinate health care workers and long-term care residents, a majority white population. But in Texas, people with underlying conditions like type 2 diabetes, sickle cell disease, or obesity could also qualify for a shot on December 29th.
In California, people with underlying diseases weren’t added to the list until mid-March, and the list of underlying diseases was much stricter than the Texas guidelines.
“That gap between January and mid-March is kind of a story to me,” said Wrigley-Field.
California officials decided on Jan. 13 to prioritize people over 65. Many people over 65 were at significantly lower risk than younger colored people, said Wrigley-Field, who argued that age-dependent eligibility benefited older, white populations at the expense of younger colored people, who were at higher risk of hospitalization and death.
Prioritizing the 65+ immediately put Hispanics at a 2: 1 disadvantage for whites, concluded Thomas Selden based on research conducted with co-authors of the Agency for Research and Quality in Health (their conclusions are consistent not necessarily AHRQ or HHS). . Priority levels for people with certain diseases and key workers would have benefited the poor or Hispanics, respectively, and putting them on the list “could be one of the reasons we are seeing lower rates for these groups,” he said.
According to a study by the University of Southern California, Hispanics aged 20 to 54 years in California died 8.5 times more often from Covid than whites of the same age from March to July.
In mid-February, first responders and workers in the education, nutrition and agriculture sectors in California were vaccinated. However, the county health authorities were allowed to set their own schedules, and in Los Angeles, this critical workforce was not eligible until March 1 due to limited vaccine supplies.
In fact, from December through March, there was no level of eligibility prioritizing groups who were mostly Latino or black in the state’s largest county and the state’s epicenter of cases and deaths.
The state’s approach hampered efforts to reach Latinos, say some of the county’s health departments. In Kern County, Latinos make up 53% of the population and 57% of Covid cases, but as of April 15, only 36% of vaccines have been given. The confusion over the eligibility levels for essential workers led many to believe that this wasn’t their “contact,” said Brynn Carrigan, the county health director.
Dr. Tomás Aragón, state health officer and director of the California Department of Health, defended the state’s initial age-related approach, saying it was a strategy to ensure that Latinos are prioritized. He noted that while Latinos accounted for 48% of the state’s covid deaths, most of those deaths occurred in people over 65.
“We are in a much better place today than many other countries, not only because our vaccination strategy saved lives and kept people out of hospitals, but also because we focused on best practices in the public health area, such as: B. Masking, distancing, hand washing and tracking down. Said Aragón in a statement emailed.
Hesitation about vaccines among racial and ethnic minorities has subsided as the reach of education has increased, access has improved, and more people see friends and neighbors safely getting the shot. According to several polls, reluctance to vaccines appears to be high among Republicans, especially white evangelicals.
According to a recent poll conducted by Frank Luntz and published by the de Beaumont Foundation, confidence in vaccines is also growing among Republicans. It found that 38% of Trump voters and 48% of Biden voters were vaccinated more often than in March.
While some experts said consistent messages from politicians would be helpful, time and experience to observe friends and family being safely vaccinated, as well as communicating with people you trust – especially personal doctors – is the most effective way to address ongoing concerns about to overcome the gunshots.
“What is going to change is that vaccines are becoming more readily available to primary responders … that they trust and have their questions answered because I think they are vaccine reluctant to vaccinate,” said Dr. David Lakey, Chief Medical Officer at the University of Texas System.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces extensive journalism on health issues. Alongside Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three most important operational programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a not-for-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.
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