Jan 19, 2021 - Health

Racial disparities already emerging in vaccinations

Illustrated collage of two healthcare workers, one with and one without scrubs.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Black Americans are being vaccinated at far lower rates than white Americans in the states that collect such information, Kaiser Health News reports.

Why it matters: Communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable to the virus, and the vaccination trend so far is likely perpetuating these disparities.

Details: In the 16 states that have released vaccination data by race, white residents have been vaccinated at rates that are often two or three times higher than Black residents.

  • The majority of the initial vaccine doses have gone to health care workers. But the share of health care workers who are Black exceeds — and often far exceeds — the share of vaccinated residents who are Black.
  • "The unbalanced uptake among what might seem like a relatively easy-to-vaccinate workforce doesn't bode well for the rest of the country's dispersed population," KHN writes.

Between the lines: The gap in vaccination rates is largely due to access issues, misinformation, and mistrust of the health care system, which stems from historic racism.

  • The slow national rollout of the vaccines has also led to calls for speed to be prioritized, which can come at the cost of equity.

What they're saying: "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," Fola May, a UCLA physician and health equity researcher, told KHN. "It breaks my heart."

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