COVID-19 Vaccine Data Lacking Race and Ethnicity

The data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows more than 15% of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated.

It is also reported more than 143 million doses have been administered, over 93 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 51 million people have been fully vaccinated.

Data on race and ethnicity is missing for half of all coronavirus vaccine recipients. According to the CDC, the data from 52,614,231 people fully vaccinated, Race/Ethnicity was available for 28,234,374 (53.7%).

This data is imperative in ensuring an equitable response to a pandemic that continues to disproportionately affect communities of color.

From the data that was collected, 69% of those who were fully vaccinated were White, 10.2% Multiple/Other, 7.6% Hispanic/Latino, 7.4% Black, 4% Asian, 1.6% American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.2% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander.

Derek M. Griffith, who researches racial and gender health disparities at Vanderbilt University, said, coronavirus vaccination has become “an issue of equality versus equity. An equality strategy says we need to give everybody the same thing; give everyone the same chance. An equity strategy realizes if we give everyone the same chance, they’re not going to be able to take it up the same way.”

North Carolina is setting the prime example of how states should be collecting this information. The state now has racial and ethnic data for more than 98% of vaccine recipients.

Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said, “The data is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have in order to embed equity into every aspect of our response and now into vaccine operations.”

This data was achieved by using a state-mandated software system that requires providers to record a person’s race and ethnicity in order to register them for vaccination.

The underrepresentation of race and ethnicity data in health systems didn’t start with this pandemic. For years, health experts have been advocating for better health data.

“Health data disparities are a huge, understudied, massive barrier to the kind of work that we need to be doing to unmask health disparities,” said Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist, C.S. Mott endowed professor of public health at Michigan State University and director of the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions.

“If you want to reach vulnerable populations, and you want to understand who is most vulnerable, it should be a requirement that the government collect data on – at a minimum – age, sex, and race,” said Nina Schwalbe, a Professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

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