Statistics Show Racial Disparity Among Vaccinated Americans, Fostering a Push For a New System of Rollout

, , Comments Off on Statistics Show Racial Disparity Among Vaccinated Americans, Fostering a Push For a New System of Rollout

Julia Gintof
Newswrit­ing II
March 23, 2021

Indi­vid­u­als from diverse posi­tions believe the cur­rent method of COVID-19 vac­cine roll­out is ineffective.

The num­ber of infec­tions, hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, and deaths in peo­ple of col­or due to the coro­n­avirus is high­er than white Amer­i­cans on aver­age, while these pop­u­la­tions have received less vac­ci­na­tions thus far. This dis­par­i­ty is draw­ing sig­nif­i­cant con­cern from experts in var­i­ous fields.

Cheryl Cato Blake­more, Senior Direc­tor of Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Pub­lic Rela­tions at Race For­ward, has worked close­ly with mar­gin­al­ized minor­i­ty communities.

Evi­dence shows these areas have been dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by the virus due to greater comor­bidi­ties, and Blake­more believes they should there­fore be pri­or­i­tized in the vac­ci­na­tion effort.

“We know that those comor­bidi­ties lead to con­tract­ing the virus and dying from the virus. Those are sys­temic things that have been put in place,” she said.

Sta­tis­ti­cian for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut Health Dis­par­i­ties Insti­tute Dr. Emil Coman has ded­i­cat­ed the past year to this research across the state and the coun­try, trends evi­denc­ing Blakemore’s points. 

He says the Black and Lat­inx pop­u­la­tions have both been adverse­ly impact­ed by the virus with greater pos­i­tiv­i­ty, infec­tion, and death rates in com­par­i­son to white Americans.

Despite this, accord­ing to CDC data with race report­ed, white Amer­i­cans are being vac­ci­nat­ed at near­ly twice the rate of the Black pop­u­la­tion and over 2 ½ times that of the His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion on average.

Blake­more says vac­cine dis­tri­b­u­tion and COVID-19 poli­cies “absolute­ly aren’t” equi­table in-terms of racial equal­i­ty, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the high­er neg­a­tive trends with­in dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed minor­i­ty areas.

She empha­sized the need to push for a solu­tion and roll out the vac­cine in those com­mu­ni­ties which are more adverse­ly affected.

“That pri­or­i­ti­za­tion def­i­nite­ly needs to shift to look at soci­ety as a whole… so that we do have more equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion,” Blake­more said.

Coman agrees with the need for a new approach, his motive for change root­ed in the lack of effec­tive­ness of many states’ indi­vid­ual age-based struc­ture of vac­ci­na­tion distribution.

“In an epi­dem­ic like this, it’s not help­ing because oth­er peo­ple are still spread­ing it to the com­mu­ni­ty,” he said.

Favor­ing speed over focus­ing on holis­tic need and risk, Connecticut’s approach par­tic­u­lar­ly, which is seen imple­ment­ed in many states across the coun­try, is not the best way to solve the issue, he said.

He uti­lizes a tool called the Social Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty Index to deter­mine high-risk com­mu­ni­ties, and with evi­dence of high­er spread, he believes these places should become a pri­or­i­ty as well. 

“The issue is, they don’t do this kind of tar­get­ing,” he said.

While the race dis­crep­an­cy is evi­dent, infor­ma­tion is only released on a statewide basis, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to see the true sta­tus of vac­ci­na­tions with­in social­ly vul­ner­a­ble communities.

The Con­necti­cut Depart­ment of Health, for exam­ple, has released sta­tis­tics on the race and eth­nic­i­ty of vac­ci­nat­ed res­i­dents, but has not spec­i­fied which areas these indi­vid­u­als reside. Instead, they have split data into two broad cat­e­gories: high-need towns and oth­er towns.

High-need towns reflect a Social Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty Index of greater than or equal to 75%. Accord­ing to the CDC, this scale is based on 15 U.S Cen­sus report­ed fac­tors in four cat­e­gories: socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus, house­hold com­po­si­tion (crowd­ed hous­ing), trans­porta­tion, and race, eth­nic­i­ty, and language.

There are var­i­ous areas across the state of Con­necti­cut and the coun­try that are con­sid­ered high-need, but by con­sol­i­dat­ing all indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in these areas into one group, it pos­es dif­fi­cul­ty for tar­get­ing which loca­tions may need increased aid.

Coman says there needs to be more speci­fici­ty in order to make an argu­ment for greater vac­ci­na­tion among areas that require it the most, but this data is not cur­rent­ly vis­i­ble to the public.

“If we could see the rate of vac­ci­na­tion by com­mu­ni­ty, or by zip code, or even by town… we could see the extent of the prob­lem,” he said. 

Hav­ing the abil­i­ty to view how many peo­ple have already been vac­ci­nat­ed on a small scale would help researchers such as Coman present an evi­dence-based argu­ment for push­ing the issue and stop­ping the virus in high-infec­tion locations.

He said the release of this infor­ma­tion is “a dif­fer­ent ani­mal” that the Depart­ment of Health has less con­trol over, the prob­a­ble rea­son for with­hold­ing being pri­va­cy concerns.

“That’s why this is a more dif­fi­cult process… It’s prob­a­bly not as easy but I don’t think it’s impos­si­ble,” Coman said.

With that said, change is occur­ring, Mass­a­chu­setts opt­ing to release its town-by-town vac­ci­na­tion infor­ma­tion to the pub­lic on Friday.

Coman hopes that with this ini­tial stone over­turned, Con­necti­cut and pos­si­bly oth­er states will follow. 

In doing so, this data may pos­si­bly open the eyes of health offi­cials and prompt local gov­ern­ments to shift their vac­ci­na­tion approach.

Coman does rec­og­nize, how­ev­er, that this idea may be extin­guished before it has even begun.

“This vac­ci­na­tion is mov­ing faster than us,” he said. “There’s a pos­si­bil­i­ty that it may open up for every­one before we see this thing out.”