Whites are signing up for COVID-19 vaccinations at far higher rates than Black Americans, which isn’t a surprise, particularly given the politicized nature of the pandemic, the intense pressure to drive clinical product and the haphazard and chaotic allocation and rollout of those vaccine products authorized under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency authorization reports Kaiser Health News (KHN). To date, approximately 3% of the American population has received at least the first dose of the two dose vaccination from one of the existing products (Pfizer or Moderna). Out of the 16 states that report on state data, what has become clear is that despite all of the emphasis placed on health equity by government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), whites are receiving COVID-19 vaccines at two to even three times the rates as of African Americans. In Pennsylvania, that inequity comes down to a vaccination rate of 1.2% for the white population and 0.03% of African Americans. Although the great majority of inoculations occur with health care workers and front line support staff, and these work categories include sizable numbers of Blacks, the latter isn’t nearly represented enough especially given the higher death rates associated with the latter demographic cohort. Behind the stark differences are known issues surrounding historical to present day mistrust based on institutional bias and even residual racism, and the current status doesn’t bode well for other underrepresented groups either.
The recent KHN analysis showcases some examples of underlying health care equity issues, surfacing during the pandemic. While ethnic minorities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), die from the virus at almost three times the rate of white Americans, new data shows non-Hispanic Black and Asian health care workers fall to infection, and death, than do their white counterparts, reports KHN’s Hannah Recht and Lauren Weber. A University of California physicians and health equity researcher, Dr. Fola May, shared the situation is heartbreaking, commenting, “My concern now is if we don’t vaccinate the population that’s highest-risk, we’re going to see even more disproportional deaths in Black and brown communities. All sorts of problems can exist that weren’t anticipated. Such as janitors in hospitals that while considered front line workers don’t even have access to the hospital email for updates.”
KHN breaks down the numbers that are available for those interested in the pandemic and health equity or social determinants of health-related issues.
Call to Action: Follow the link to review this KHN story.