As vaccine rates continue to rise across America, racial inequities among Covid-19 vaccine clinics also rise. The pandemic brought these previously occurring disparities to light and they have become obvious. It is time to close the racial division in healthcare and provide adequate resources to underserved communities.
The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, collected race and ethnicity data on 83 percent of all Covid-related deaths as of August 25, 2021. One out of four were 65 and older BIPOC (Blacks, Indigenous, People of Color) according to a Next Avenue analysis. Experts and healthcare officials say one of major reasons is the wealth and income gap. Generations of racist policies have stoked inequality in the BIPOC community.
Federal data from the CDC shows 68.4 percent of the total population in the US has received one dose of vaccine. The statistics show 60 percent of these are White, 17 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent Black. BIPOC are being vaccinated at lower rates because of obstacles like language and technology barriers.
Gabriela Abrego, Ph.D. in Public Health, focuses her research on minority health and communicable and infectious disease control and interventions. Abrego has volunteered with several vaccine clinics in the Johnson City, Tennessee area. Her passion to close the gap of racial disparities in the Hispanic community and reach more groups on trusting modern medicine is substantial in today’s age.
“I’m a Hispanic person myself, and I have family that doesn’t have trust in Western medicines,” said Abrego.
Health determinants are a big influence over these inequities. Abrego said especially factors such as socio-demographics, income level, educational level, and even residential location.
Transportation plays a huge part in gap as many low-income communities have a difficult time getting a ride to the locations of vaccine clinics. Many families don’t have the resources to pay for childcare or take off work to meet the limited times offered for free vaccines.
Social media is another issue that spreads misinformation among BIPOC people. False narratives and deceiving statistics online only seek to further divide the community and turn BIPOC away from trusting doctors and the government. Historically, the BIPOC community has learned to be wary of new medicinal practices due to ongoing discriminations and high-profile racial injustices. They were wrongfully targeted for unconsented and unethical medical experimentation and research practices.
High hesitancy towards the vaccine includes mistrust of the healthcare system, but it is also found in factors like the speed the vaccine was developed and uncertainty regarding future side effects. A national survey tracking the public’s attitude and experience with Covid-19 vaccinations showed that Black and Latinx communities are concerned about the vaccine’s cost, despite the vaccine being free to everyone. This further emphasizes the importance of the fact that the vaccine being free is crucial in whether many decide to get vaccinated.
Joy Fulkerson is a member of the BIPOC community and just recently received her second dose of the vaccination. Fulkerson recognizes the extent of her people’s hesitancy to receive the vaccine. The misinformation that many choose to listen to greatly affects the issue at hand.
“I think there’s a lot of lack of focus on what the real issue is, and so I am saddened too, because I think there are some people who, if they knew better, would do better,” said Fulkerson.
The importance of ensuring equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine for BIPOC communities is essential to lessening the racial gap that divides the vaccine ethnicity rate. Solutions involve creating conversations and building trust in the medical community that can help ease tensions and anxieties that underserved communities have towards healthcare. Resources need to be advertised and provided.
The CDC has already committed itself to paving the way for vaccine equity efforts by partnering with national, state, and local community partners to ensure Black or Hispanic people have fair access. To support these partnerships and building blocks, the CDC provided $3 billion in funding to 64 jurisdictions to support local health departments in launching new programs and initiatives to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake in communities disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.
“If you’re able to provide clinics in the community where people are at like public libraries, or employer sites or schools, then you're going to get a lot more coverage because that's where people are at,” said Abrego.
There is still groundwork to finish in correcting the systematic racism of the past that has integrated today’s healthcare, but solutions are being researched and the gap is closer to be erased with each resolution. Conducting community conversations and learning how to address inequity factors of socio-demographics and wealth are a good start in reaching more BIPOC communities. This would act to engage interest in vaccine clinic opportunities.
For more information on this issue and solutions provided visit CDC.gov or your nearest local health department.