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Black Americans are still getting Covid vaccinations at dramatically lower rates than white Americans, even as the chaotic rollout hits more people, according to a new KHN analysis.
Nearly seven weeks after the vaccine was launched, states have extended eligibility beyond health workers to a wider segment of the public – older adults in some states, and key workers such as teachers in others. However, new data shows that vaccination rates for black Americans do not match those of white Americans.
Seven other states released demographics of residents who were vaccinated after KHN released an analysis of 16 states two weeks ago, making a total of 23 states with available data.
Data shows that in all 23 states, whites are more likely to be vaccinated than blacks, often twice as likely – or even higher. The differences have not changed significantly with additional two-week vaccinations.
For example, in Florida, 5.5% of white residents had received at least one dose of vaccine by January 26, compared with 2% of black residents. This is roughly the same ratio as two weeks ago when the rates were 3.1% and 1.1%, respectively.
African Americans are being left behind because of barriers stemming from structural racism and the failure to address nuanced hesitation and suspicion about vaccines and the medical system at large. The ongoing vaccination picking has led officials from across the nation to call for action.
“As Covid-19 continues to take a disproportionate and deadly toll on color communities, we urgently need solutions to address health inequalities and destroy this virus,” said Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., First vice chairman of Congress Black caucus. He said he was working to pass laws to eliminate inequality.
In the United States, non-Hispanic black Americans are 1.4 times more likely to develop Covid and 2.8 times more likely to die from it than white Americans. This comes from an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The persistent inequality in vaccinations can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: a new KFF survey shows a correlation between people who know someone who has received the vaccine and their willingness to receive it. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the KFF.) As a result, it is more difficult to gain a foothold in communities where not many people are vaccinated.
One of President Joe Biden’s first executive orders prioritized the collection of Covid data. He also founded the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, led by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the cited KHN’s analysis in a CNN town hall on Wednesday while describing the country’s vaccine inequality. She stressed the task force’s need to build confidence in the vaccine and address access issues.
Dr. However, Celine Gounder, a former Covid advisor to Biden, warned that there is no quick fix to the structural inequalities reflected in the numbers – and Congress has yet to come across Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion Covid Decide on the aid plan.
“If they fund it fully, you will have the money to do some of these things,” said Gounder. “What you really need to do is change the system so that it doesn’t happen in the first place.”
Earlier this month, the CDC told KHN that it intended to add race and ethnicity data to its dashboard but was unable to say when.
Referring to KHN’s initial analysis, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted on Jan. 19 that the CDC “needs to immediately add race and ethnicity data to its public dashboard – we cannot address what we cannot see.”
On Wednesday, CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said officials plan to publicly release the data early next week.
The CDC has already urged vaccine providers to collect information on race and Hispanic ethnicity for each person they vaccinate. In states that have denied KHN requests for data, local reports suggest the differences can be stark.
Many of the states that have split data by race put it on hard-to-understand dashboards. Some report data by dose, which means that people who received both doses are represented twice.
All 23 states that report data by race split numbers for black and white residents. In addition, however, the data is often limited. Eight of them do not give specific numbers for Indians and natives of Alaska who die from Covid at 2.6 times the rate of white Americans, according to the CDC study.
For example, Massachusetts combines all of the data for people whose race is unknown with Indians, Alaskan natives, Hawaiians, Pacific islanders, and others.
Race and ethnicity information in health data is often incomplete, and Covid data is no exception. Although most of the states that provide the data have a relatively low lack of information rate, some states lack racial or ethnic demographics for half of those vaccinated.
The data on Hispanic ethnicity is particularly extensive. Those who give vaccines should ask patients on separate questions about both race and Hispanic ethnicity, as Hispanics can be of any race or combination of races. In almost all states where such numbers are broken down separately, the percentage of missing information about Hispanic ethnicity is far higher than the percentage of missing racial information. Hispanic Americans have died far more often than non-Hispanic white Americans.
The CDC data sharing should help standardize the data available – and possibly clarify the dynamics in the 27 remaining states – but it is not yet clear how the CDC will fill the gaps in data collection.
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
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