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Racial disparities from pandemic persist in vaccine rollout

Communities of color, which have suffered the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, have also received a smaller share of available vaccines. The vaccination rate for black Americans is half that of whites, and the gap for Hispanics is even greater, according to a New York Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information.

Vaccinations as a percentage of the total population of the group

White

black

Hispanic

Note: Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey report this data on the basis of total doses, rather than people vaccinated.

As of March 3, 38 states were publicly sharing data on the race and ethnicity of those vaccinated. Jurisdictions define the categories of race and ethnicity in slightly different ways and with different levels of completeness – in some states, up to a third of vaccinations lack data on race and ethnicity.

Public health experts have said that despite these data limitations, emerging trends in states are clear.

“People of color are getting vaccinated at rates lower than their representation of the general population,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President Biden’s Coronavirus Equity Task Force, in a recent vaccine forum. “This narrative can be changed. It must be changed. ”

Some health officials expect immunization disparities to narrow as more of the general population becomes eligible for a vaccine.

But while the reported race and ethnicity of those vaccinated is influenced by who is eligible for a vaccine, the discrepancies are not just due to the demographics of the first people on the line.

“We’re not even available to everyone in the country yet, and we’re already seeing these disparities by race and ethnicity,” said Dr Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, physician and professor of epidemiology at the University of California at San Francisco. “The sad thing is that we see it so quickly.”

Public health experts, including Dr Bibbins-Domingo, said barriers to vaccine access deserve much of the blame for immunization disparities.

Black and Hispanic Americans are less likely than their white counterparts to have Internet access reliable enough to book online appointments; to have working hours flexible enough to take any available opening; and having access to reliable transportation to vaccination sites, among other factors. Lack of access to vaccine information through trusted providers can also lead to uncertainty and refusal to be vaccinated.

States have begun to address these challenges by bringing vaccines to hard-hit communities and partnering with local groups to share information in multiple languages ​​and in culturally appropriate ways, said Samantha Artiga, racial equity program director. and health policy to the Kaiser family. Foundation. Ms. Artiga analyzed vaccine disparities.

“One thing I will be watching closely in the future is whether these efforts translate into a reduction in the gaps in immunization rates,” said Ms Artiga.

But racial and ethnic disparities in health are old and deeply rooted, according to public health experts.

“When you think about these differences, you realize that we have a lot of work to do as a nation,” said Dr. Sonja S. Hutchins, professor of community health and preventive medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine, who has worked in the centers. for disease control and prevention for three decades.

“This will probably not be our last pandemic.”

Methodology

The Times gathered data on the race and Hispanic origin of people vaccinated from state websites between March 1 and March 3. Data available for the following states were current at the end of February: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington.

Some states do not report the race and ethnicity of people vaccinated, but rather all doses given, which can double people who have received two doses of the vaccine. These states are excluded from this analysis and include Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. North Dakota reports vaccinations as a share of the population of each race or ethnic group and is only included on U.S. maps.

Louisiana, Michigan, and West Virginia do not report the ethnicity of those vaccinated. While Alabama reports ethnicity, it is excluded from this analysis because most of its vaccinations do not contain information on ethnicity.

Information on race and ethnicity is missing from a significant number of immunization registries across states, up to a third in some states. The Times subsequently withdrew from its analysis vaccinations of unknown or undeclared race or ethnicity. Some states are also reporting larger than expected shares of the “other” racial category, and states are still working to determine why. Alaska and California have “other” categories that account for about 30 percent of their known vaccinations.

The District of Columbia’s “other” category accounts for more than 40 percent of its known vaccinations and was excluded from the Times analysis.

States also vary in the inclusion of non-residents among those vaccinated. States may or may not include people vaccinated by a federal program for long-term care facilities.

Figures for Pennsylvania exclude those who received a vaccine in Philadelphia County.

The Times used demographics from the 2019 American Community Survey. While some states include Hispanics as a racial category, others report ethnicity separately. The total population figures have been adjusted based on the method of reporting race and ethnicity in each state.