New data shows where you live, color could impact COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania is now receiving hundreds of thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week and more people are getting vaccinated each day. 11 Investigates found it isn’t always being distributed in an equal way, however. New data suggests where you live and the color of your skin could impact how likely you are to get it.

“I’m proud of what we’re doing to protect vulnerable populations in Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, more than 1.3 million white Pennsylvanians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Not including Philadelphia County, which has its own vaccine supply, that comes out to nearly 14% of the state’s white population.

More than 51,000 Black Pennsylvanians have been vaccinated statewide, which is around 6.5% of the state’s Black population.

“One of the most important things we discovered is we have to take care of everybody and it was our minority population that we saw a big gap in,” said AHN Diversity and Inclusion director Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew.

On a near weekly basis, AHN is now hosting vaccination clinics in underserved and minority communities, bringing the vaccine where it’s needed.

“Caucasian patients can travel distances to get to where they need to go to get these, whereas people in underserved communities are in their communities. Many things they do are walking distance, so we need to make sure they have accessibility, too,” Larkins-Pettigrew said.

Smaller providers are helping where they can. Hilltop Pharmacy in Allentown is reserving spots and bussing people to weekend clinics.

“I think that’s helped a lot,” said Alex Lavella with the pharmacy.

Providers are also still dealing with hesitancy and distrust.

“I don’t know what that’s about and I don’t feel comfortable getting something injected into me. I don’t trust the government like that,” said Hazelwood resident Brittany Powell.

Officials say minds are changing and familiar faces can help ease some concerns.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania’s roughly 13 million residents are more than 81% white and 12% Black or African American.