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Tribune examines vaccination rates in SLO County, finds large discrepancy between SLO zip codes

San Luis Obispo Tribune
The SLO Tribune article has an interactive map showing vaccination rates in various areas of San Luis Obispo County.

In a recent article written by staff reporter Lindsey Holden, the San Luis Obispo Tribune examined vaccination rates across San Luis Obispo County. KCBX's Benjamin Purper spoke with Holden about the data and some interesting findings across the county.

Purper: Lindsey Holden, staff reporter for the SLO Tribune, welcome to the program. You published this article about which communities in San Luis Obispo County have the highest vaccination rates. So, which community came out on top?

Holden: So, Avila Beach came out on top. And we tracked — well, the state tracks this by zip code, so that's 93424. And, 100% of people in that zip code have gotten at least one vaccine dose. So that includes people who have gotten one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or who are fully vaccinated, who have gotten both doses of those vaccines, or have gotten the one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Purper: Okay, and what about county wide? How many people overall in the county have received at least one shot?

Holden: So, 61% of eligible residents have gotten at least one shot. So, that includes people 12 and older. So, in May, they extended the age range for who was eligible to get shots back from age 12. So, children and young teens can get just the Pfizer vaccine now.

Purper: So in the City of San Luis Obispo, there's this discrepancy in zip codes right? Can you talk about that a little bit?

Holden: Yeah, so, the City of San Luis Obispo has two zip codes: 93401 and 93405, and the 101 divides the city in half. And the 93401 zip code is doing really well with vaccinations. It actually has the second-highest number of residents who have gotten at least one vaccine dose with about 74%. And then the 93405 zip code, only about 36% of residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose and yeah, I'm not quite sure why the discrepancy exists. Previously, that has been the case in 93405 when I last did a story on this. So yeah, I'm trying to learn a little more about that.

Editor's note: After the recording of this interview, Holden published another article in which a county spokesperson says the discrepancy in zip codes within the City of SLO may be due to some college students using their home addresses for their immunization records.

Purper: Okay, what about disparities between ethnic groups? I understand Latinx people have a lower rate of vaccination in SLO County, right?

Holden: Yeah, so about 32% of Latinx residents in San Luis Obispo County are fully vaccinated, and that's the same for 43% of white residents. And yeah, in the past through some reporting I've done, there's kind of a variety of reasons for that. There's some Latino residents who primarily speak Spanish or indigenous languages and work in industries like agriculture, who may struggle to access vaccines — and that's due to language barriers, there's work schedules that make it challenging to leave work to get a vaccine, there's misinformation and then there's undocumented residents who fear accessing government services to get vaccines. I know the county is doing a lot of outreach and there are amazing groups like the Promotores Collaborative and Mujeres de Accion, who are working to try and spread awareness about the vaccine and make sure people know it's safe to put on clinics in different areas to help spread the vaccine farther. 

Purper: Okay, right. And I understand children and teens also have a pretty low vaccination rate, right?

Holden: Yeah, so it's pretty low. So, for ages 12-17, 67% of residents in that age group have not gotten vaccinated at all yet, which is not entirely surprising considering that a large chunk of that age group only became eligible to get the vaccine in May, so they haven't had a lot of time to go get it. So yeah, hopefully that group will catch up over the next few months. 

Purper: Okay, any other interesting findings in your reporting?

Holden: Well, something that's kind of interesting is in the North County communities — so communities north of the Cuesta Grade — they continue to lag behind communities on the coast and coastal valleys in terms of their vaccine rate. So, in Paso Robles and Atascadero, about 49.8% of residents have gotten vaccinated and in Shandon, only about 38% of residents have gotten vaccinated. So, that trend kind of continues from the beginning of when people started getting vaccinated. 

Purper: Okay well, Lindsey Holden of the SLO Tribune, thanks again for coming on and we look forward to more of your reporting on this. 

Holden: Awesome, thanks so much for having me.

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