Sunday, July 21, 2024

Four Months into the Vaccine Rollout, Ethnicity & Racial Data Collection Continues to Lag

Despite the continued efforts of President Biden’s administration to vaccinate communities of color, the U.S. has made little progress in collecting COVID-19 vaccination data by race and ethnicity.

As of last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recorded race and ethnicity data for only half of the country’s vaccinations, a figure that has increased slightly over last two months. Demographic data for age, which are far more complete, have increased by about the same amount in that time.

CDC data shows that COVID-19 has hit racial and ethnic groups harder; Latinos, Native Americans, and Black Americans have the highest death and hospitalization rates. The disproportionate impact became clearer when states improved reporting of racial and ethnic data about cases, hospitalization, and deaths.

An analysis of states’ vaccinations found that all but two states, Montana and Wyoming, were publishing race data for those receiving vaccinations. However, the quality of race data is mixed for almost every state; at least four states were missing data for a quarter of their vaccinations.

There are also missing pieces even within the data that were reported. Some states often put together populations such as Pacific Islanders and South Asians or combine populations from Indigenous backgrounds into a category of “other,” which creates an unreliable illustration of exactly who is getting the vaccines.

Experts and government officials say that missing racial data makes it difficult for leaders to identify problems in vaccine distribution and harder to combat vaccine hesitancy, which can make things worst for already underserved populations. Judy Qualters, co-lead of the CDC’s Covid-19 Vaccine Task Force Data Monitoring and Reporting Section expressed, “This data helps CDC measure our nation’s progress in controlling the pandemic and allows us to quickly identify the need for additional support for health departments.”

Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, a national expert on health disparities stated, “It’s critical for us to know, is the Latino community getting vaccines at the same rate as everyone else? Do we need targeted initiatives? Do we need targeted outreach? Is it access to care? Is it vaccine hesitancy? Without data, you can’t know any of that.”