US COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Not Reaching Black People, Study Shows

An analysis by the Associated Press shows that Black people in America aren’t getting the COVID-19 vaccine at the rate of white people in the US, despite representing a significant portion of the healthcare labor force and other vulnerable populations.

The study, released January 30, shows that across 17 states and two cities, the number of Black people getting the vaccine is significantly lagging behind the proportion of the population we make up.  

In North Carolina, Black people make up 22% of the state’s population, and 26% of the state's healthcare labor force, but out of those who have received the vaccine, only 11% are Black. The state is made up of 68% white people, which includes Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, and represent 82% of those who’ve been vaccinated in the state.

In Chicago, Black people make up 15% of those who’ve received the vaccine, despite making up nearly a third of the healthcare workforce in the city, and about 37% of people who are over the age of 75. 

Data from Philadelphia shows that 14% of those getting vaccinated are Black, while 45% of the city’s healthcare workforce and 40% of people in the city who are 75 and older are Black. 

Additional data from Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Mississippi, Vermont, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, Nebraska, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Oregon, and West Virginia, show similar trends. 

The findings are alarming given the toll that the coronavirus has had on Black people and other communities of color. Black, Native, and Hispanic people in the US are three times more likely to die from the virus compared to white people, according to the CDC. 

“We’re going to see a widening and exacerbation of the racial health inequities that were here before the pandemic and worsened during the pandemic if our communities cannot access the vaccine,” Dr. Uché Blackstock, a New York emergency room doctor and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, told the AP.

What is driving the lag?

Experts are pointing to several factors working in tandem. The inadequate access to vaccines in Black communities, plus the digital divide that is preventing some from getting up-to-date information and the opportunity to get an appointment are a large part of the problem. The exploitive history the medical field has with Black people, especially in America is also another factor at play, according to the experts. 

When the vaccine was first approved for emergency, several surveys found that many Black adults in America said they would probably not get the vaccine. The skepticism stemming from centuries of a healthcare system built on inequity and fueled mistrust. 

“It’s frustrating and challenging,”said Dr. Michelle Fiscus who manages Tennessee’s vaccine program.

“We have to be working very hard to rebuild that trust and get these folks vaccinated,” Fiscus added. 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who chairs the COVID-19 Equity Task Force said President Joe Biden and his administration are pushing for more equity in the vaccine rollout, as reported by CNN

“Access issues and mistrust are leaving Black healthcare workers behind,” Dr. Nunez-Smith said. “We know there will be similar challenges across the broader population.” 

Photo: Getty Images 

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