OHA updates COVID-19 vaccination data for rarest race and ethnicity

Starting Tuesday, OHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination Metrics dashboard will include more precise population estimates for race and ethnicity data at the state and county level.

The more granular data updates follow more than six months of collaboration between OHA’s data and equity analysts and demographers at the Portland State University’s Population Research Center. The center produces the official data used for Oregon population estimates.

The change will provide local public health officials across Oregon with more precise information about vaccination rates among racial and ethnic groups to help county health officials customize their efforts to increase vaccinations. Previously, county health officials had to rely on regional data.

“This is good news for our local public health providers who have been seeking more precise county information as they work with community partners, Tribal health clinics and health providers to reach those groups who are lagging behind other residents with vaccinations,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist and health officer.

“We want to make sure they have as much accurate information as they need about their communities to make smart decisions to increase their vaccination efforts. The more people we can protect, by reaching them through trusted partners and in the right languages, the less likely our most impacted residents will develop serious illness or hospitalization.”

Before the change, OHA used data from the U.S Census’ 2015-2019 American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS) to estimate populations by rarest race and ethnicity. However, the detailed demographic data necessary for these calculations could only provide data about areas with 100,000 or more persons, resulting in most counties having only regional estimates available.

The new estimates leveraged additional information on the spatial distribution of the population by race and ethnicity within each region to downscale regional estimates to the county level. Previously, only eight counties could be observed from the original ACS data source. With the new release, all of Oregon’s 36 counties have individualized data to track vaccination rates and other key indicators.

For example, the vaccination rate for adult residents who identity as Hispanic/Latino/a/x in the region including Columbia, Lincoln, Clatsop and Tillamook counties was previously 50.4%. After the change to more precise county data provided by the Population Resource Center, the dashboard will show the vaccination rate of residents who identify as Hispanic/Latino/a/x as 54.4% in Clatsop, 43.4% in Columbia, 57.5% in Lincoln and 47.2% in Tillamook.

Before the change, Hood River County was grouped with eight other counties, showing a regional vaccination rate for adults of 53.2% for Black/African American persons and 57.8% for Hispanic/Latina/o/x persons. After the change to more precise county data provided by PSU, the vaccination rates in Hood River County are more than 80% for both groups.

Generally, vaccination rates for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander persons decreased after population estimates increased. For other racial and ethnic groups, there are increases and decreases in the population estimates and vaccination rates based on the new data.