Millions of Americans have been given the COVID-19 vaccine after the FDA approved two in December. However, an analysis of available data shows Black, Hispanic and other ethnic groups are being vaccinated at lower levels than white Americans.
Based on data from 16 states that share the race/ethnicity of those getting vaccinated, the proportion of vaccinations among Black and Hispanic Americans is smaller in each state than the proportion of COVID-19 cases among Blacks and Hispanics, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and CNN.
“For example, in Mississippi, Black people account for 15% of vaccinations, compared to 38% of cases and 42% of deaths, and, in Delaware, 8% of vaccinations have been received by Black people, while they make up nearly a quarter of cases (24%) and deaths (23%),” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of available data.
They said similar disparities exist for Hispanic Americans in the states providing data. Although there are smaller gaps between cases and vaccination rates for Asian Americans, the available data is “limited.” They have created charts to track the available data on vaccination rates among race and ethnic groups.
The CDC reports racial and ethnic disparities in the rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalizations and deaths. In a report earlier this month, their data showed Black and Hispanic Americans are dying of COVID-19 at a rate three times higher than white Americans, and are being hospitalized at a rate of four times higher.
Those looking at the early vaccination data are hopeful, however, that as the COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out to more of the population, the racial and ethnic gaps will become smaller.
The vaccine has only been available to health care workers and long-term care facilities, this could be a contributing factor to the disparity in who is getting it. The vaccine is now becoming available to those 65 or 70 and older in the general population, depending on the state, and some front line workers outside the medical industry.
“Different patterns may emerge as the vaccines roll out more broadly,” the Kaiser Family Foundation reported, urging states to make equity the focus of their vaccine roll out campaigns.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, with the American Public Health Association, told CNN to ensure a more diverse population gets the vaccine, communities need to consider access issues.
"You have to say, 'I want to make sure everyone gets this,'" Benjamin told CNN. "We have to make sure we think about all the ways that people can give in (to getting vaccinated) and we have to make sure we have vaccine available for them when they call in."
He mentioned things like offering the vaccine outside of traditional working hours so people who work hourly or front line jobs don't have to miss work to get the shot, also consider a transportation plan for getting people without a car to vaccination sites.