Dr. Jerry Abraham  (courtesy image)

Black Women Rally for Action, a health and wellness coalition, marked the grim milestone of 3,000 deaths of black people from COVID-19 complications in Los Angeles County since 2020.  BWR leaders held a press conference on Nov. 18 to announce the findings with the release of “A Look Back on the Impact of COVID-19 Among Blacks in Los Angeles County,” a two-year quantitative report on COVID-19 rates, deaths and vaccination status.

The report, made possible by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health releasing disaggregated COVID-19 data, examines the trends based on race/ethnicity, gender and age during the first two years of the pandemic. Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units, making underlying trends and patterns clearer.

BMR and its partners plan to use the data to influence policy makers, service providers and residents to make science-based decisions and actions.

BWR officials stated the importance of collecting, analyzing and publicizing the impacts of COVID-19 on blacks and other communities of color.  The disaggregated data will allow service planners to assess problem areas and make decisions and recommendations regarding priorities and gaps while seeing the “big picture” of COVID’s prevalence and consequences.  Planners can integrate data into ongoing assessment, planning and monitoring decisions at community levels and advise policy and system changes in local, county and state services and supports.

Dr. Sheila Young-Mercado (courtesy image)

Major finding in the report include:

  • Although vaccination rates have improved since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, data still finds blacks have the lowest vaccination and booster rates among all populations.
  • For black males and females, COVID cases are highest for those between the ages of 30 and 49.
  • While cases of COVID for women between 18 and 64 are higher than men, death rates for men in the same age categories were higher.
  • For blacks 65 and older, death rates appear to be substantially higher than all other age groups.
  • Doctors, clergy, community leaders, and health advocates reflected on the data in the report.
  • Community Build, Inc. President Robert Sausedo said COVID deaths of family and friends, including his father, two employees and a childhood friend, in a single year confirm the report’s data.

“Whether it’s COVID, shingles, the flu or monkey pox, I say, don’t wait too late, vaccinate.” Saucedo said.

Two physicians spoke on progress made in the fight against COVID-19 but noted the many barriers that still persist.

Dr. Jerry Abraham, Director of Kedren Community Care Clinic Vaccinces Program said since vaccines became available in December 2020, his team has vaccinated almost 400,000 Angelenos, focusing on communities of color, who are often left behind.  He cautioned that while 60 percent of communities of color are vaccinated, 40 percent remain unvaccinated.  Abraham said that for blacks, this discrepancy stems from medical mistrust and distrust.

“It’s because of histories of medical trauma inflicted upon [black] people. It is because it is difficult to find appropriate, culturally competent, culturally responsible health care services.  This includes the difficulties identifying black physicians and black health professionals in our community,” Abraham said.  “The undermining of black pain by healthcare institutions contributes further to the trauma that our community suffers.”

Robert Sausedo, President/CEO Community Build, Inc.  (courtesy image)

Dr. Sheila Young-Mercado manages the mobile COVID-19 testing site at Charles R. Drew University and was responsible for the first vaccination clinic in Watts.  She echoed Abraham’s sentiments and added that early in the pandemic, racism and elitism played a role in vaccine distribution.

“It was heartbreaking to see resources horded and realize that if we did not fight for them, we would not receive them,” Young-Mercado said. “We have given it all sorts of names, health disparities, and health inequities, yet at the end of the day, it is personal, structural and institutional racism practiced and accepted by a larger community that was brought up to believe that their lives were more valuable than others.”

In spite of the early struggle to get the vaccine in black communities, both physicians emphasized their current availability as well as the safety and effectiveness of the latest COVID-19 bivalent vaccine. They urged Black residents to get vaccinated and boosted to prevent another winter surge of the virus.

“We fought hard for the vaccine.  Now we have it. No one has to die from COVID,” Young-Mercado said.  “For our community, let’s make a commitment to end death from COVID.”

To read the full report, “A look back on the impact of COVID-19 among blacks in Los Angeles County,” contact Black Women Rally for Action at (747) 218-9258 or  [email protected].