Everyone’s talking about the Covid-19 vaccine these days – who gets it first; how will it be distributed; is there enough; where do I sign up; and so much more. While it’s still early in the rollout, it’s already become clear that African Americans and Latinos, who have been hit the hardest by the Corona virus and Covid-19, are getting vaccinated at disproportionately low rates. The early data (though limited by many factors including poor data on who is being vaccinated) indicates that vaccinations are not reaching the populations the virus has harmed most and that Black and Brown people are getting vaccinated at a much lower rate than their share of cases and deaths.
In Maryland, only about 16% of the first doses of the vaccine have gone to African Americans, and 4.6% have gone to Latinos. Those groups represent 31% and 11% of the population, respectively. Black residents have accounted for approximately 33% of Maryland’s coronavirus cases and 35% of deaths from the disease; Latino residents account for 19% of infections and 9% of fatalities. In New York City, about 5% of those vaccinated are Latino or African American, but these groups make up 29% and 24% of the city’s population, respectively. In Philadelphia, 12% of those vaccinated were Black while the city’s population is about 44% Black.
These results are consistent with a report released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation that evaluated race and ethnicity data on vaccinations for 17 states obtained from the federal government. Kaiser found that “the share of vaccinations among Black people is smaller than their share of cases in all 16 reporting states and smaller than their share of deaths in 15 states. For example, in Mississippi, Black people account for 15% of vaccinations, compared to 38% of cases and 42% of deaths, and, in Delaware, 8% of vaccinations have been received by Black people, while they make up nearly a quarter of cases (24%) and deaths (23%). Similarly, Hispanic people account for a smaller share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases and deaths in most states reporting data. For example, in Nebraska, 4% of vaccinations are among Hispanic people, while they make up 23% of cases and 13% of deaths.”
Conversely, Kaiser found that “the share of vaccinations among White people is larger than their share of cases in 13 of the 16 reporting states and larger than their share of deaths in 9 states.” For example, in North Carolina, 82% of vaccinations have been among White people, while they make up 62% of cases and 65% of deaths.
These figures make it clear that the early rollout strategy is not adequately nor appropriately targeting those most susceptible and vulnerable to Covid-19. It is early and much has been said about the logistics difficulties in getting the vaccine into the arms of the people who need it most. But it does seem apparent if not obvious that the rollout strategy for the distribution of the vaccine is not centered on equity – getting the vaccine into the arms of the people who have been infected the most and who are dying at the highest rate.