Today, Malheur County submitted the COVID-19 Vaccine Health Equity Plan to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). This plan outlines the commitment to key approaches and collaborations to identify and provide access to those who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. The Malheur County Health Department involved several team members to capture the many efforts the county has made and plans ahead to improve protection through vaccination. The vision of the Health Department played an important role in the team’s approach to writing the plan and focusing on our goal for public health.
Vision: Everyone in Malheur County leads a healthy, fulfilling and productive life, no matter who you are. We have strong relationships with diverse communities to eliminate health gaps and promote optimal health. By connecting people and programs, we make substantial, measurable progress in improving the health of all in Malheur County.
No county in Oregon, Idaho, or Washington has a higher Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) score than Malheur County, which explains part of why there are such higher rates of COVID-19 infection and low rates of COVID-19 immunization here. Read more about the OHA’s critical population planning and Malheur’s SVI score here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to “attain his or her full health potential” and no one is “disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.” Health disparities or inequities are types of unfair health differences closely linked with social, economic, or environmental disadvantages that adversely affect groups of people.
OHA statewide data shows the percentage of people who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is significantly higher for white people than for many communities of color. Where the state’s rate for people who identify as white and non-Hispanic is 45%, the rate for Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native residents is just above 30%. In Malheur, Klamath, Lake and Harney counties, the COVID-19 rate for people who identify as white and non-Hispanic is 32.7%, while the rate for Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native residents is 14.6%.
Residents in Malheur County will continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 without increased vaccination to protect those who are most vulnerable. The Equity Plan demonstrates our commitment in the COVID-19 response to prioritizing access and education as we move closer to the health department’s vision of health for all.