I got some real ass déjà vu right now, and no I’m not talking about the slept on 2006 Tony Scott/Denzel Washington banger. I honestly wish I was though, as that would be a lot more fun than talking about how Black people are still receiving coronavirus vaccinations at a lower rate than white people.
As you can see above, The Root has covered this topic recently and there was hope that the disparities stemmed from how limited the early rounds of vaccinations were. Now that vaccines have slowly become available to a wider swath of people, the Associated Press has found that Black people have consistently received the vaccine at lower numbers across multiple states.
In North Carolina, white people make up 68 percent of the population but represent 82 percent of those vaccinated. Conversely, Black people make up 22 percent of the population, 26 percent of healthcare workers, yet represent only 11 percent of those vaccinated. The comparison is even worse when it comes to Maryland. Black people make up 30 percent of the population, 40 percent of health workers, and only 16 percent of those vaccinated.
So far, only seven percent of the American population has received the problem, with the initial rollout being slow and riddled with problems. The Biden administration revealed that the Trump administration left no real plan in place for vaccine distribution and essentially have had to start from scratch.
President Joe Biden is trying to bring more equity to the vaccine rollout he inherited from the Trump administration. The Biden administration is encouraging states to map and target vulnerable neighborhoods using such tools as the CDC’s social vulnerability index, which incorporates data on race, poverty, crowded housing and other factors.
“We are going to take extra steps to get to the people hardest to reach, and that work is happening right now,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of Biden’s COVID-19 equity task force.
Most states have yet to release any racial data on who has been vaccinated. Even in the states that provided breakdowns, the data is often incomplete, with many records missing details on race. However, the missing information would not be enough to change the general picture in most cases.
Distrust in the vaccine, the medical system at large, and a general lack of resources have been cited as reasons why Black people are currently underrepresented in vaccinations. Additionally, the availability of the vaccine has mostly been for people over the age of 65, which is more heavily white than other demographic groups. Honestly, that fact makes me sad just because of what it says about the life expectancy of Black people.
These early vaccination numbers are concerning as Black people have been disproportionately been affected by the virus, with COVID-19 being the third leading cause of death for Black people in 2020.
There are efforts underway to address these disparities in several states, including Louisiana where health officials are using a CDC tool to identify vulnerable neighborhoods that don’t have vaccination sites and then establishing vaccinators in those neighborhoods. Other states are offering transportation to get people to vaccination sites, and using mobile vaccination units to assist those who are homebound.
Thomas LaVeist, dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, has enlisted multiple Black entertainers and public figures on an ad campaign to promote the vaccine and combat distrust in the virus. He said that calling the effort to find the vaccine “Operation: Warp Speed,” was a mistake as it gave the impression that speed was being prioritized over scientific accuracy.
“I completely understand the mistrust,” LaVeist told AP. “But you have to consider the risk of COVID versus the risk of the vaccine. This is a devastating disease and it has disproportionately impacted Black Americans. That is what we do know.”