CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg health officials for the first time on Friday released ZIP code data showing vaccination rates for the county’s most vulnerable residents lag far behind people in affluent areas in Charlotte.
The patchwork of ZIP codes, showing data of residents at least partially vaccinated from December through April 14, once again sharply underscores the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on Black and brown communities. It also suggests Mecklenburg is months away from gaining herd immunity and stunting the spread of more coronavirus cases.
The data captured only the first week when all North Carolina adults were eligible to be vaccinated. State public health data shows that 357,433 Mecklenburg residents had received at least one shot as of April 14. But as of late Thursday, that number had climbed to 444,123 or 40% of the county’s population.
Marginalized communities in Mecklenburg’s crescent have some of the lowest rates of vaccinations, while those in the wedge — a collection of affluent neighborhoods in south Charlotte — have some of the highest. The average vaccination rate across all ZIP codes was 43%, according to an Observer analysis.
Dr. Meg Sullivan, the county’s medical director, on Thursday said Mecklenburg is relying on its equity plan to ensure all residents have easy and convenient access to the vaccines.
The county has also allocated doses to smaller community partners, including Black-owned Premier Pharmacy, to overcome trust and vaccine hesitancy issues.
Black people make up 21.3% of the total population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Mecklenburg County, while they make up 33.9% of the county’s population. White people make up 58.8% of the total county population with at least one dose of the vaccine and 58.5% of the population, according to Mecklenburg.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Corine Mack said it’s not surprising to hear that marginalized communities in Charlotte have been underrepresented in vaccination efforts.
But it is “disturbing,” she said, especially “in a city that has predominantly people of color in leadership.”
“We must stop hurting Black people,” Mack said. “We must stop allowing Black people to be harmed. We must understand that we have a responsibility in this city to be intentional to turn things around.”
ZIP code 28212, in east Charlotte, ranks at the bottom of vaccinations, notching only 20% of residents immunized. Black people make up 43.2% of residents in that ZIP code, according to an Observer analysis.
Meanwhile, the largely white ZIP code 28207, along Queens and Providence roads, had the best vaccination rate at 71%. White people make up 93.9% of residents in that ZIP code, according to an Observer analysis.
And that ZIP code has the lowest concentration of Black residents in Mecklenburg County. Black people make up just 3.4% of residents in 28207.
North Mecklenburg towns also have a large percentage of residents partially vaccinated. That includes in ZIP code 28031 in Cornelius, where 84.5% of residents are white, and in ZIP code 28036 in Davidson, where 89.9% of residents are white, according to an Observer analysis.
The vaccination rates , which county officials obtained from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, reflect vaccines administered by N.C. providers, as well as pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. The data also incorporates immunizations in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Public Health Director Gibbie Harris told reporters late last week that Mecklenburg is “just now starting to get good solid data ... that allows us to really understand what’s happening on the ground.”
“What we’re seeing is pretty much what we expected,” Harris said. “It just reinforces that fact that we’ve got certain populations that are underrepresented in the vaccines that have been given up to this date. We need to continue to focus on that and making sure that we’re making those vaccines available in those areas.”
The areas in Charlotte reporting the lowest rates of vaccination are also the areas most impacted by the pandemic, experiencing higher COVID-19 case rates throughout the year, health officials indicated.
Mecklenburg County Public Health along with hospital systems Novant Health and Atrium Health have launched pop-up efforts aimed at increasing vaccination rates in marginalized communities. But the data released Friday shows marginalized communities are still under-vaccinated.
“When we hold vaccination clinics in predominantly Black and brown communities, white folks are going to those areas and getting vaccinated,” Mack said.