Preliminary COVID vaccine data indicates Black Americans have been vaccinated at rates significantly lower than white Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released information on the demographic characteristics of vaccinated people.
According to the CDC data, only 5.9% of those vaccinated are Black vs. 62.8% of those vaccinated are non-Hispanic white.
Access issues and mistrust stemming from structural racism are major factors contributing to these low rates.
“Communities of color have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and are the least likely to have access to the vaccine,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer of Watts Healthcare Corporation explained, “we need to ensure that the African American community and those that have challenges with transportation, health care, sick leave from work, and finances — that they have as much access as others. There should be a nationally coordinated strategy.”
A survey on race and health by The Undefeated and the Kaiser Family Foundation found widespread distrust.
The poll shows, among Black adults who say they’re not planning to get a vaccine, nearly 40% cite safety concerns, including that it will be too new and there won’t be sufficient testing. Another 35% attributed their concerns to a general lack of trust or have doubts about the government or the health care system.
Trust must be regained so African Americans will have the confidence that getting a COVID-19 vaccine will benefit their health and not worsen it.
Kim Gallon, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University and founder and Executive Director of COVID Black. COVID Black is a Black Health data organization that uses data to tell stories about the Black lived experience to advocate for health equity.
Gallon believes the process of regaining confidence and trust starts with predominantly white institutions trusting Black Physicians and Black Researchers to implement the cultural approaches they know will work with Black communities.
“That’s going to mean giving time and resources to those Black institutions, and Doctors, and health care providers, so they can go into Black communities and engage in strategies that are going to be really effective,” she said.
“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,” said Dr. Fola May, a UCLA Physician and health equity Researcher.
The lack of public data from many states makes it difficult to report such racial inequities in real-time. Only a handful of states have provided race data publicly, many declined or did not respond.