North Cambridge and three other neighborhoods will be prioritized with 3,000 initial vaccine doses
The Cambridge Public Health Department plans to target vaccinations to four neighborhoods most affected by Covid-19, with North Cambridge first in line. The other three neighborhoods are East Cambridge, Wellington-Harrington and The Port, chief public health officer Claude Jacob told city councillors Monday.
Jacob said the state was given 3,000 doses of vaccine for this purpose and he indicated that more will be needed to cover all four neighborhoods. The health department “and city partners are working on the concrete plan to vaccinate eligible residents in the hardest-hit neighborhoods,” he said.
Residents as young as 55 and those who have certain medical conditions are eligible for vaccine now; anyone 16 and older will be eligible as of April 19.
Jacob said “analysis” resulted in North Cambridge coming first among the four targeted neighborhoods, without giving details. As of Monday, North Cambridge had the lowest number of cumulative cases per 10,000 residents among the four neighborhoods, with Wellington-Harrington highest, The Port second and East Cambridge third.
The rates are based on the total number of cases since the pandemic began last spring, though, and health department epidemiologists know details about where cases are occurring recently. Besides that, hundreds of cases are missing from the map comparing neighborhoods because of address information for people who test positive that is incomplete or that the city’s automated mapping system can’t interpret. As of Monday, about 1,000 cases of the total of 5,649 were not included in the map.
The effort to target vaccine by neighborhood is reminiscent of earlier campaigns to put Covid-19 testing sites in areas where cases were highest. The city still offers free tests at locations in East Cambridge, The Port and North Cambridge, as well as Harvard Square.
Three neighborhoods that will be targeted have higher percentages of black residents than the city as a whole, with North Cambridge reporting more than twice the citywide figure, according to statistical profiles for 2019 published by the Community Development Department. Three neighborhoods – not including North Cambridge – have the same or a slightly higher percentage of Hispanic residents than the city figure. All four have higher poverty rates for individuals than the city.
Like the national and state patterns, Cambridge numbers have showed consistently that the demographic groups with the highest Covid-19 case rates are black and Hispanic residents. The latest graph posted by the city on Monday showed that Hispanic residents were 2.8 times as likely as white residents to have tested positive and black residents 2.4 times. The case rate for Asian residents was lower than the rate for white residents for months, but has now almost reached the rate for white residents.
As for vaccinations, about 10 percent of Cambridge residents who have received one shot are black, the same as their proportion of the city’s population. Hispanic and Asian residents lag behind, with Latino residents making up 5 percent of those with at least one shot compared with 8 percent of the population, and Asian residents accounting for 10 percent of those with at least one shot but 19 percent of the population. White residents made up 63 percent of those with at least one shot, more than their 60 percent share of the population.
The city health department’s vaccination campaign at the city’s low-income public housing developments for seniors and disabled tenants probably reduced racial disparities in vaccinations. The health department also gave more than 600 first and second vaccine shots at homeless shelters and intends to vaccinate homeless people living on the street when it gets more vaccine, health department medical director Dr. Lisa Dobberteen told councillors.
The department has also vaccinated 13 homebound residents and was preparing to visit another 100 residents who cannot leave their homes starting this week.