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Health & Medicine

Racial Equity Is A Challenge In Onondaga County's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Onondaga County Executive's Office

Onondaga County’s minority communities are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at lower rates than their white neighbors according to new data released by County Executive Ryan McMahon Thursday. Two pop-up clinics were held this week at Toomey Abbott Towers and Dr. Weeks Elementary School.

They were able to vaccinate public housing residents, new Americans, Centro staff and homeless shelter employees. McMahon said without these clinics, the vaccine equity numbers would be worse.

“We are underperforming in the Latino community. And we still do have some work to do in the African-American community as well. If we did not do those pop up sites last week and this week, these numbers would be very bad. It shows that we are going to need to be intentional getting into neighborhoods moving forward,” said McMahon.

While this demographic data is only reflective of the shots given at the county’s vaccine site at the OnCenter, McMahon expects the inequity to be present at other points of distribution as well. McMahon said he wants the vaccine data mimic the county’s population demographics.

"My guess is the pharmacies are going to look very similar. They’re going to have a high percentage of caucasians," said McMahon. "The fairgrounds, probably the same. We’re being very intentional and we’re going to need to be very intentional to make sure that communities get opportunity.”

He said he knows there will be distrust and hesitation, but the county’s health equity task force will try to remedy that through outreach and education.

Between vaccinations the county has done at the OnCenter, the state fairgrounds site, and pharmacies, a total of 52,000 county residents have receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s 11.3% of the county population vaccinated, which is higher than the state average 7.6%. These numbers do not include vaccinations in the county’s long term care facilities.

Onondaga County Vaccine Distribution Demographic Breakdown:


  • 33% over 65
  • 17% under 34 (healthcare, education, first responders)
  • 49% between 35-64 (healthcare, education, first responders)


  • 85% White
  • 7% African American
  • 2% Asian
  • 1% All Other
  • 4% Declined/ Unknown


  • 70% Not Hispanic
  • 2% Hispanic
  • 17% Other
  • 10% Declined/ Unknown


  • 21% City of Syracuse
  • 71% Rest of County
  • 8% Out of County