Black Americans make up only 5.4% of Covid-19 vaccine recipients, CDC finds

Jessica Glenza
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 5.4% of coronavirus vaccine recipients were black, in its first analysis of how vaccines were given out among different demographic groups in the first month of US distribution.

That is lower than the proportion of black people who are either residents of long-term care homes in the US (14%) or who work in the healthcare field (16%). Both were in the highest priority groups for immunization.

However, the federal health agency emphasized its analysis was hampered by lack of data. While the 64 states and territories and five federal jurisdictions that undertook vaccination reported age and gender in nearly all cases, just over half of records included data on race or ethnicity.

“More complete reporting of race and ethnicity data at the provider and jurisdictional levels is critical to ensure rapid detection of and response to potential disparities in Covid-19 vaccination,” researchers wrote.

More than 97% of the data the CDC received contained information about age and 99.9% contained information on gender. However, just over half, 51.9%, of data contained an entry for race or ethnicity.

Further, researchers said the variation in state distribution plans weakened their analysis. States such as Florida and Texas quickly expanded vaccine eligibility criteria beyond health workers and the medically frail, to include many people older than 65.

Related: Number of Latinos dying daily from Covid soars 1,000% in Los Angeles

The CDC’s study looked at data from the more than 12.9m vaccinations in the US between 14 December 2020 and 14 January 2021. The period covers the weeks immediately after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

For the recipients whose race was known, 60.4% were white, 11.5% were Latino, 6% were Asian, 5.4% were black and 14.4% reported multiple identities. Of those records, just 6.7m had information on race and ethnicity.

Black people in the US have died of Covid-19 at a rate 1.5 times higher than white people, and Latino people have died at a rate 1.2 times higher, the Covid Tracking Project found.

Independent analyses have also found “red flags” in the race and ethnicity data states are reporting. A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found just 17 states were reporting such data. By comparison, 51 states and territories now report racial and ethnic data on deaths, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Black and Latino people in the US have been sickened and died of Covid-19 at disproportionate rates, in part, because of multi-layered disparities and decades-old policies which have made these groups more vulnerable to Covid-19.

For example, black Americans are nearly twice as likely as white Americans to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetimes, a risk factor for serious complications from Covid-19. At the same time, black and Latino workers are overrepresented in low-wage essential worker positions, where it is often difficult to socially distance.

Researchers have tied health disparities to diverse factors as systemic as housing segregation, which at one time was institutionalized as racist US government policy, to those as interpersonal as discrimination from healthcare providers.

The dramatic impact of Covid-19 on black and Latino people in the US reduced life expectancy at birth by two and three years respectively, according to a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found. By comparison, white people lost 0.68 years of life expectancy at birth.