Some of Idaho’s wealthiest and least vulnerable communities have reached higher levels of protection from the virus that causes COVID-19, while the more vulnerable remain at risk.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare provided COVID-19 vaccination data by ZIP code, and by week, to the Idaho Capital Sun. The data, obtained through a public record request, show how the vaccine rollout has fared in each pocket of Idaho.
The Sun also used vaccination rates by county, combined with U.S. Census data, to find a strong correlation between each Idaho county’s vaccination rate and certain demographic traits.
The patterns show that Idaho has done a relatively good job, so far, of providing vaccines equally to communities with more white residents and those with more residents of color, and those with or without a higher share of Latino and Hispanic populations. Idaho counties’ racial and ethnic demographics are correlated with vaccination rates to a lesser degree than other factors.
But other populations are being left behind — or are choosing to fall behind — in the push to protect Idahoans from the coronavirus.
The Sun’s analysis found that Idaho counties with higher COVID-19 vaccination rates also tend to have more:
- White residents.
- Households with a computer and broadband internet.
- Higher-income households.
- College graduates — the strongest correlating factor.
The counties with lower vaccination rates tend to have more:
- Hispanic or Latino residents.
- Residents age 65 and older.
- People with disabilities.
- People in poverty.
- People who don’t have health insurance — the strongest correlating factor.
Ketchum and Sun Valley got immunized as fast as they could
Blaine County had one of the nation’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks early in the pandemic. By early April 2020, just weeks after Idaho first confirmed the arrival of the coronavirus, the county that includes Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey had more coronavirus cases per capita than New York City and Italy.
But over the past five months, the ZIP codes in and surrounding Sun Valley stand out for their steady uptake of the vaccine.
Every week from mid-January through late April, between 3% and 7% of residents went out to get their first vaccine dose, the Sun’s analysis found.
The county boasts one of the highest rates of COVID-19 vaccination in the U.S.
More than 77% of the county’s residents age 12 and older had received at least their first dose of a vaccine as of mid-May, according to the state’s public data.
The next-highest rates are in Valley, Ada and Teton counties — with rates of about 50% to 54%.
The vaccination rates of Blaine and the other three counties also align with their votes for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, echoing a national trend of the vaccine’s politicization.
Idaho lags the nation, but some ethnic groups have better vaccine rates
Kaiser Health News reported this week that data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed vaccination rates have improved among certain groups.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare got a slow start on gathering data on vaccination by race and ethnicity. That’s partly because health officials thought they couldn’t legally collect that information. Then, when reporters pressed them on it, they found the law did allow them to gather that information through the state’s vaccine registry — but the state couldn’t require health care providers to enter it.
The state now includes a breakdown of vaccination rates among Latinos and Hispanics — groups that bore a disproportionately high COVID-19 burden over the past year.
Public health agencies and health care providers have been pushing to reach communities of color, those who speak languages other than English, and those who live in remote and rural areas.
About half of the CDC’s vaccine data is missing race or ethnicity details. But of the records with those markers attached, the news outlet reported that “targeted efforts” have raised vaccination rates among communities of color.
Hispanics in eight states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are vaccinated at higher rates than non-Hispanic whites, Kaiser Health News found.
Idaho isn’t one of them.
Only 13% of Hispanic and 16% of Black Idahoans have been vaccinated, lower than the 17% vaccination rate among white Idahoans, the data show.
Vaccination rates among Asian and Native American communities in Idaho have climbed to 26% and 27%, according to the data Kaiser Health News obtained.
The increases show that some of the efforts to ensure equity in COVID-19 protection have been working, KHN said.
“To reduce fear among Idaho agricultural workers that may be part of mixed-immigration status families, public health workers emphasized messaging that documentation wouldn’t be required,” KHN reported, citing Monica Schoch-Spana, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and one of the people who helped lead the center’s CommuniVax coalition.