(CNN)Black and Latino Americans are receiving the Covid-19 vaccine at significantly lower rates than White people — a disparity that health advocates blame on the federal government and hospitals not prioritizing equitable access.
A CNN analysis of data from 14 states found vaccine coverage is twice as high among White people on average than it is among Black and Latino people. The analysis found that on average, more than 4% of the White population has received a Covid-19 vaccine, about 2.3 times higher than the Black population (1.9% covered) and 2.6 times higher than the Hispanic population (1.8% covered).
Black and Latino Americans are already dying of Covid-19 at three times the rate of white people and being hospitalized at a rate four times higher, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CNN’s findings come as the government struggles with vaccine supply shortages and a chaotic rollout that has caused delays in vaccinating the elderly. The federal government has recommended that states open up vaccination to more groups of people, including everyone 65 and older. Initial guidance from the CDC had suggested health care workers and the elderly in long-term facilities be the first to receive the vaccine.
Health experts and advocates say the federal government can help alleviate the disparities by strengthening partnerships with leaders and churches in Black and Latino communities — and be intentional about not leaving people of color out of vaccination efforts.
How to ensure ‘everyone gets this’
Hospitals, for example, must ensure their entire workforce, including the food and maintenance staff, receive all correspondence about signing up to get the vaccine, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Black, Latino and Asian Americans make up 41% of health care workers while 59% are White, according to Kaiser. And the majority of workers in long-term health care settings, 52%, are people of color.
Benjamin said the vaccine also needs to be administered outside of traditional hours so people who work hourly, frontline jobs don’t have to take off work. Communities, he said, should consider a plan for transporting poor families without vehicles to health facilities to get the vaccine.
“You have to say, ‘I want to make sure everyone gets this,'” Benjamin said. “We have to make sure we think about all the ways that people can give in (to getting vaccinated) and we have to make sure we have vaccine available for them when they call in.”
Some researchers said it was alarming to have disparities so early in the process when most of the people getting vaccinated are health care workers.
Dr. Fola May, a health equity researcher at the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, said she would expect health care workers to be the most informed and the least hesitant about science.
May fears this could be indicative of bigger racial gaps when the vaccine becomes widely available.
“I think we’ve botched this,” May said. “If we’re seeing it in this population that should have the least biases against science, then when we look into the bigger populations we’re going to have even fewer people who have the right information and access.”