Louisiana is now asking COVID-19 vaccine providers to track whether vaccine recipients are Hispanic or Latino after the state wasn’t initially collecting that data on ethnicity at all.
The state government did not ask providers to track whether vaccine recipients were Hispanic or Latino through the first six weeks of vaccine distribution. State health officials said the federal government didn’t require it to do so.
Still, the state changed its policy this week. About 5 percent of Louisiana’s population identifies as Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.
“Both race and ethnicity should be completed for any given patient,” the Louisiana Department of Health told vaccine providers in new guidance Tuesday.
While not requiring the tracking of ethnic data, the state has been trying to collect data on the race of vaccine recipients since the beginning of vaccine distribution in December — with mixed results.
The race of over half of the vaccine recipients isn’t known. Vaccine providers either haven’t been recording the race of the recipient or are marking down “other” as the preferred race in over half of the cases, according to data released by the Department of Health.
Louisiana’s health equity task force members were also told that hospitals and pharmacies were using different words and formats to distinguish race — causing confusion. For example, one health care provider used “African” instead of “African American” or “Black” as a listed identity.
Last week, the Department of Health sent a memo to hospitals, pharmacies and other entities distributing the vaccine reminding them to record the race of the vaccine recipients into the federal database that tracks vaccine distribution. At the time, they weren’t urging providers to also track Hisapnic or Latino identity.
“It is the expectation of LDH that providers will accurately enter the self-reported race of patients/recipients in [the federal database]; routinely selecting other as a default in the race field is not acceptable and will hinder the state’s ability to understand and address inequities in vaccine distribution,” the memo read.