White people in Prince William County are receiving vastly more COVID-19 vaccines than those in other ethnic groups, and the county continues to lag its neighbors in terms of vaccination progress.
The Prince William Health District provided a breakdown of demographics of those who have been vaccinated to the Board of County Supervisors during its meeting Tuesday.
According to the health district, which also includes the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, vaccines have been distributed to more than 50,000 people locally. Of those, demographic data was available on only about two-thirds, or 33,362 people.
Among those who provided demographic data, 54% were white. The remaining demographic breakdown was 16.9% Latino, 13% Black, 7.7% other race, 6.8% Asian and 0.4% Native American. According to U.S. Census estimates, Prince William County’s population is 41% white, 24.5% Latino, 22.2% Black and 9.4% Asian.
As of Wednesday, Prince William has seen 39,570 cases of the virus, with 441 deaths. The county ranks second in the state in terms of number of cases, behind only Fairfax County, and third in the number of deaths, behind Fairfax and Henrico counties.
The health district also ranks last in Northern Virginia and is among the lowest in the state in per-capita vaccinations, with just 5.4% of county residents fully vaccinated, according to latest data from the Virginia Department of Health. In response to that slow pace, Walmart opened a vaccination clinic this week in the former Gander Mountain store near Potomac Mills mall to supplement the county’s clinics at Manassas Mall and George Mason University’s Manassas campus.
Vaccination progress by locality
|Locality||Total Doses Administered||One dose||Two doses||Fully Vaccinated per 100,000 residents|
Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator, said in a news briefing last week that the Walmart clinic – one of four in the state – will administer about 400 doses a day. All vaccinations are by appointment only, and residents must register through the state’s vaccination site.
Supervisor Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, previously issued a directive seeking the demographic data. She has also issued a directive for the county and health district to work together on a plan to address the inequities.
Supervisors have also been discussing creating a county health department to have more influence and say over future public health crises.
County supervisors were alarmed at the disparities presented by the health district and urged officials to create a plan to tackle equity problems.
“That’s unacceptable and there needs to be some plan,” said Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville. “If we’re seeing that number a month from now, then people need to start getting fired.”
Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, asked Dr. Alison Ansher, director of the health district, to push for a vaccination site in her district. Ansher said the health district can’t control which pharmacies are starting to receive the vaccine, it can only provide recommendations.
Bailey encouraged the health district to work with supervisors to conduct outreach in the community. “If you just talk to us and just ask our opinion, those numbers will change, guaranteed.”
Ansher cautioned that education needs to come before a vaccine clinic in any district will be truly successful.
“I don’t think you can just open up a clinic without doing some footwork if they’re hesitant,” she said. “Before you open up a clinic you have to do some work to actually encourage them that it is safe.”
Supervisor Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan, said minority communities need more education and outreach to allay their concerns about the vaccine.
“We can educate people, but unless our vaccinations are hitting people where they are and getting them safe and secure, unless that’s a key component of our strategy, people are going to say ‘Hey this is not a safe thing for me,’” he said.
Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, also encouraged the health district to leverage the board as a resource.
“We have a finger on the pulse of our districts so please utilize us,” she said. “I haven’t heard anything from the health department about how I can partner with you and the community we represent.”