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DIGGING DEEPER: Zip codes tell a tale of two cities on COVID-19 vaccination

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Allen County is home to some of the "most vaccinated" neighborhoods in Indiana -- but also to a community near the bottom of the statewide list of COVID-19 vaccination rates.

That's according to data that breaks down participation in the vaccination effort zip code by zip code.

ABC21 dug deeper into the numbers.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following information reflect the very latest data. It has been updated and varies slightly from the figures in the video attached to this report (which used data that was current as of Friday, April 23).

Among the highest: The 46814 zip code, in southwest Allen County. There, 61.1 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and 78.1 percent have received an initial dose.

It's the third highest rate in all of Indiana.

The 46845 zip code also rates high, at 54.9 and 68.8 percent for full and partial vaccination, respectively.

In contrast, 46803 -- as of this weekend -- saw a 13 percent full vaccination rate and 19.5 percent partial vaccination rate.

That zip code represents areas south and east of downtown Fort Wayne -- an area that has a far lower median income and that is home to minority majority populace.

About 54 percent of the 46803 zip code is Black. About 1 percent of the 46814 and 46845 population is Black.

One of the challenges of vaccination has been reaching minority communities -- especially Black Americans.

"This is safe and not the same thing as Tuskegee," local NAACP president Larry Gist told ABC21.

He says hesitancy to get the vaccine is rooted in history -- abuses such as the studies conducted on Black men in Tuskegee, Ala., starting in the 1930s. It focused on the progress of untreated syphilis, and it continued for decades.

Gist said that generations later, "(young people) have heard about that through their grandparents and that belief is still in their head."

It's not the only challenge.

Lack of resources and transportation in lower income neighborhoods also play a role.

Allen County's primary vaccine sites were set up at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and the Mirro Center at Parkview North -- neither near the '03.

"The south side really felt the effects of that," Gist said. "They have had some locations here on the south side, but those shots were limited."

Dr. Matthew Sutter, the county's top health official, recognizes the difficulties for some.

"People of color are actually disproportionately affected in terms of infections of COVID-19," he said. "(We) try to work with community leaders to get the message out there that these vaccines are safe, effective and free."

A clinic at the McMillen Community Center also made appointments more readily available in close proximity.

For now, however, white Hoosiers are being vaccinated at a rate in line with their representation statewide, which Blacks are being vaccinated at a rate that trails their actual makeup in the state populace.

Gist hopes continued focus on access and education will help ramp up the numbers.

"This is what we need to do," he said. "It's not that when you go get the shot, they are going to take a batch out of this basket and a batch out of that basket because of the color of your skin.

"It's the same shot. I'm watching."

CLICK HERE for the Indiana State Department of Health vaccine data page, with downloadable zip code data

Indiana Public Broadcasting has compiled the zip code data in chart form. CLICK HERE to access the updated zip-by-zip chart

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Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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