Ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines has been a top concern in the rollout process. According to a brief by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), “National recommendations regarding vaccine distribution have emphasized the importance of ensuring equitable access, particularly for disproportionately affected groups, including people of color.” KFF identified some key barriers when it comes to vaccinating disproportionately affected groups, including people of color.
“Data for existing vaccinations show people of color are less likely to be vaccinated compared to their White counterparts,” noted KFF. Access-related challenges, such as higher uninsured rates, often contribute to the lack of health care. “Although the government has indicated that the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available at no cost, it will be important for people to know how they can access it for free in order to reduce potential cost concerns as a barrier, particularly for people who are uninsured.”
Additionally, a lack of trust, given the medical abuses and mistreatment in history, as well as concerns around safety are prime reasons why some people of color say they would not get the vaccine. And in today’s current climate, many still feel race-based discrimination. Citing a recent KFF/The Undefeated survey, an article update from KFF stated: “For example, the survey showed that seven in ten Black adults believe race-based discrimination in health care happens very or somewhat often, and Black adults were more likely than White adults to report certain negative experience with health care providers, including feeling that a provider didn’t believe they were telling the truth, being refused a test or treatment they thought they needed, and being refused pain medication.”
When interviewing more than 1,000 adults via the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, 47% of Black adults and 47% of Hispanic adults stated side effects as their biggest concern.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “race / ethnicity was known for just over half (55%) of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine” on a national-level. In the updated reporting released last week, KFF shared COVID-19 vaccinations by demographics on the state-level, as reported by 34 states. The KFF analysis found “a largely consistent pattern of Black and Hispanic people receiving smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population. For example, in Texas, 20% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 42% of cases, 47% of deaths, and 40% of the total population in the state. Similarly, in Mississippi, Black people have received 22% of vaccinations, while they make up 38% of cases, 40% of deaths, and 38% of the total population in the state.” When evaluating the data on Asian populations, KFF found the share of vaccinations, typically, to be similar to their share of cases and deaths. In states where differences were identified, “they were generally small.”
In a data update, KFF also found that, in analyzing vaccination rates across the 26 states reporting racial / ethnic data for people who have received at least one dose, the total average vaccination rate for White people is 10%, Asian people is 8%, Black people is 5%, and Hispanic people is 3%.
The authors concluded by stating, “Together, these data raise concerns about disparities in vaccination but are also subject to gaps, limitations, and inconsistencies that limit the ability to compare data across states and draw strong conclusions. The data are still early, with vaccinations not yet broadly available to the public in many areas. Moreover, some states have high shares of vaccination data with unknown race / ethnicity and / or reporting ‘other or multiple races.’ Further, 18 states and the District of Columbia are not yet reporting vaccinations by race/ethnicity. Comprehensive standardized data across states will be vital to monitor and ensure equitable access to and take up of the vaccine.”