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SF redoubles efforts on COVID-19 vaccine equity as data shows widening disparities among children by race and ethnicity

Data points to the urgent need for City and community partners to reach children of color in highly impacted neighborhoods.

Even as 65% of SF children ages 5 to 11 have reached full vaccination, far exceeding state and national averages, data shows widening racial and ethnic disparities among this age group.  

American Indian and Alaska Native children ages 5 to 11 are 22% vaccinated, and Pacific Islander children are 44% vaccinated. Rates among Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander children are 34%, while Hispanic or Latino/a/x children are 48% vaccinated.  

Meanwhile, data shows vaccination rates of 29% among Black/African American children ages 5 to 11. Black/African American teens ages 12 to 17 are 52% fully vaccinated (overall rates among 12-17-year-olds in SF is more than 90%).  

By contrast, vaccination rates among SF adults have been exceedingly successful across race and ethnic groups following the City’s targeted outreach to highly impacted communities in partnership with community organizations. The City’s success among adults points to the urgent need to follow similar low-barrier approaches and engagement strategies to improve vaccine uptake among children in many of those same communities.

“Over the past several months since the COVID-19 vaccine became available for children ages 5 to 11 we have been watching uptake across our many communities in the City,” said Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax. “The data is showing disparities among race and ethnic groups, especially within communities of color, that implore us to work with our community partners to address the many issues around barriers to access, distrust, education, and other factors that may be at play. We are listening to the needs of the community and working on tailoring solutions to bridge these gaps so that all children in SF can receive the best defense against the virus.”   

COVID-19 vaccinations are the primary defense against the virus, and while children tend to have less severe forms of the disease than adults, they can still become seriously ill. Additionally, disruptions to their schooling, impacts to families, and risks to medically vulnerable people in their households and communities all point to the urgent need to vaccinate children.  

COVID-19 vaccines have been federally authorized for safe use in children ages 5 and older since early November, and their effectiveness in preventing severe illness was once again proven in the recent Omicron surge.

SF Vaccination Rate in Children Ages 5 to 11 by Race and Ethnicity

Race/Ethnicity (Age 5-11)

All (67%)

American Indian or Alaska Native (22%)

Asian (81%)

Black or African American (29%)

Hispanic or Latino/a/x, all races (48%)

Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (34%)

White (64%)

As we move out of the most recent surge in cases and into a new phase of living with the virus, SFDPH’s strategy is to continue to develop approaches that further empower families with information on and access to vaccines.  In collaboration with community partners, SFDPH will seek to further reduce barriers to vaccines and to prioritize the needs of highly impacted communities. SFDPH-affiliated vaccination sites offer drop-in and walk-up options for vaccinations.  Additionally, SFDPH will host “pop-up” clinics at school sites in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD).  

“While COVID-19 transmission rates remain low among youth and children, we know that vaccines remain one of the most important ways to prevent the worst symptoms of the virus," SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. "SFUSD is committed to increasing rates among children and we are grateful to continue to offer our school sites and direct outreach to families as a resource." 

Two schools will host drop-in vaccination clinics for eight weeks, including Bret Harte Elementary School in the Bayview beginning Friday, February 25 (continuing every Friday, 2pm-6pm) and Rosa Parks Elementary School in Western Addition beginning Monday, February 28 (continuing every Monday, 2pm-6pm). Additional school sites are being identified for short-term “pop-up” vaccination sites. 

Just as during earlier parts of the city-wide vaccination campaign, the leadership of community partners has been critical in identifying the most meaningful interventions for reducing disparities in vaccination rates for adults. SFDPH is also working with community partners to find other, creative and meaningful ways to reach families in the coming weeks and months.   

“At Rafiki we have worked closely with SFDPH and have reached many families with vaccinations, but more efforts are necessary to overcome barriers to access and build trust within communities of color,” said Dr. Monique LeSarre, Executive Director of Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness. “Working with the Dream Keeper Initiative, we hope to incentivize Black youth and their families by organizing family-focused pop-up vaccine clinics in SF’s Black neighborhoods. We are also providing much-needed food at vaccine sites so that we can deliver other needed resources to our families, who are still very much impacted by the pandemic.” 

Horizons Unlimited and Galeria de la Raza are partnering on a youth-led community education campaign, “I Am an Influencer,” to promote vaccines and boosters among youth peers and parents. 

“We are elevating our young people and the role they have in influencing their peers to help close the equity gap in vaccinations for children in San Francisco,” said Horizons Unlimited Executive Director, Celina Lucero. “Our campaign highlights and lifts our cultural values and messages of collective responsibility and trust as foundational principles for action. Our campaign is meant to amplify youth voice and affirm and celebrate their agency and power.” 

As SF moves into a new stage of the pandemic and begins to lift many of the restrictions that have been in place as protective layers, such as indoor masking, SFDPH recognizes the important work ahead to support individuals and families in highly impacted communities with the resources needed to best protect themselves against the virus.  

COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to everyone, regardless of immigration status.  

Parent or guardian consent information: 

For children ages 5-11 to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, consent by the parent or guardian is required. However, it is possible for someone other than a parent or guardian to bring a child into a clinic for a vaccination. More information can be found here: sf.gov/information/under-18-permission-covid-19-vaccine

Where to get a vaccination: 

For a list of locations in SF to receive a vaccination or booster, go to: sf.gov/get-vaccinated-against-covid-19