Why Fewer Black Americans Are Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine (*No, It’s Not Hesitancy)

Early data on vaccination rates are incomplete, but one fact is particularly alarming: Black Americans are vaccinated much more slowly than their white counterparts. This is worryingly given how hard the pandemic hit black Americans.

But it’s also worrying because people often misunderstand why the rate is lower. Many point to it quickly a distrust of the medical communitylike blacks do a long story to be ignored or be actively ill-treated by US health professionals – especially among the notorious 40-year-olds Tuskegee Studywho denied treatment for syphilis to black men so researchers could follow the natural progression of the disease. But a new one Pew poll Challenges the idea that black Americans are reluctant to get vaccinated: A majority of black adults (61 percent) told Pew that they either had a COVID-19 vaccine planned or already got one, a sharp increase over that 42 percent who did this in November said they wanted to get vaccinated.

And this reflects what health experts have told me on the subject. They don’t really believe that suspicion of the vaccine explains the huge gaps in vaccination rates. In addition, it is dangerous to attribute the void solely to suspicion, as it weighs down black Americans on vaccination and distracts us from the real reasons why vaccination rates are lower. “The experience of black Americans in the US health system has been extremely troubling to say the least,” said Sean Dickson, director of health policy at the West Health Policy Center. “But we don’t want to rely on the story that blacks are unwilling to get the vaccine,” he said, adding that the real problem is the lack of investment in vaccine distribution in black communities.

In fact, a recent NPR analysis found that vaccine hubs, especially those in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama, were largely absent from predominantly black and Hispanic communities, while few whiter neighborhoods were without one. And in one national study Dickson, conducted in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy, found that black Americans faced in nearly two dozen boroughs in and around Atlanta, New Orleans, and Dallas, along with a host of other cities longer journeys to vaccination centers than white Americans.

Even if the vaccine distribution centers are more evenly spaced, the researchers find that color communities are still missing. Residents from more affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods often claim an oversized proportion of vaccine appointments in black and Hispanic neighborhoods by taking advantage of what is available. It has already happened in several states, including in California, where outsiders abused a program to provide vaccine appointments in communities of color.

The fact that vaccine registration systems are largely online is partly to blame, as there is often one Racial segregation in who has reliable internet access. Take Washington, D.C., where the ease of signing up made it practically easier for wealthier whites Push black people out who were trying to get an appointment. The city moved to implement quickly a new registration system This initially offered appointments to people in zip codes with the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates. However, some residents said the process still hasn’t helped the people in need of the vaccine most.

George Jones, their Non-profit agency in the DC area runs a medical clinic, told the New York Times that Hardly any of the people who came to his clinic for admissions were regular patients. “Somehow we have to convince them to use these spots,” he said. Health professionals Anyone studying medicine and health inequalities warns This internet access plays an important role in health because of the growing role the internet plays in connecting patients to care, especially during the pandemic. “The question is,” Who is actually getting vaccines? “- older adults who are tech-savvy, have the funds and family members to help them, or populations that are hard to reach?” asked Abraham Brody, professor of nursing and medicine at New York University, in an interview with Kaiser Health News.

Black Americans are too disproportionately likely working in front-line jobs that are classified as essential, which means that it is likely to be more difficult for them to take time off to get a vaccine. Some states, like New York, have plans to open or have already opened, multiple 24/7 locations. And Dickson told me that one thing more cities could do is develop mobile, or pop-up, vaccination centers that are open during times good for the service industry. Some states like Texas and new Yorkare already experimenting with mobile popup centers. And in Philadelphia, the Black Doctors COVID-19 consortium is offering walk-in vaccination clinics for which no appointments are required.

President Biden’s administration is also taking more aggressive steps to ensure fair vaccination rates. Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday announced that the White House would invest $ 250 million in federal grants for organizations working to fill gaps in the COVID-19 response. And in January Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith was appointed to lead a new federal task force Address coronavirus inequalities; the same month the White House revealed a plan Its goals include improving data collection for high-risk groups and ensuring fair access to vaccines. The $ 1.9 trillion stimulus plan is also set to help cities and states Development of further vaccination centers in color communities. Others in Biden’s orbit, including former President Barack Obama, have promised to have her injections publicly to show that it is safe.

But perhaps most notably, Biden has now said the country is “on track” to have enough coronavirus vaccines for every adult until end of May. However, experts believe that this will not be enough to overcome the access problems that many black Americans face. For example the national one Analysis at the district level Under the direction of Dickson and his team, it found that more than a third of the US states had two or fewer types of facilities that could potentially serve as vaccine distribution centers. “Vaccination rates are low not because people don’t want the vaccine, but because those who want it can’t get it,” said Robert Fullilove, professor of sociomedical science at Columbia University Medical Center.

Even so, it’s important to address vaccine hesitation – if it is there. But the experts I spoke to say that issues like accessibility, lack of investment in black communities, and general health inequalities are the biggest barriers for blacks to get the coronavirus vaccine. But those aren’t the only things that make it harder than it should be. Nunez-Smith had previously told the Financial Times about it was concerned about misinformation on COVID-19 specifically for black communities. And already in the black community, some influential people shared Anti vaccine memes;; There are also widespread misinformation claim the vaccines contain microchips or cause autism (they don’t). White House officials work with Facebook, Twitter and Google Stop the misinformation about COVID-19 As we learned from the last two presidential elections, tackling misinformation – and disinformation – can be a challenge.

However, there is an urgent need to ensure that the racial and ethnic differences we are seeing with the current introduction of vaccines are resolved quickly, especially as the US approaches the year-long anniversary of its first lockdown. But as Dickson warned me, we should be clear about the issues and be careful not to rely on an incomplete “vaccine hesitation narrative” to explain why black Americans are vaccinated at lower rates. “The… narrative can be self-fulfilling if we start from black Americans become are vaccinated at lower rates than white Americans, ”said Dickson. “[I]Assuming that this is the case, we do not take it upon ourselves to view it as a problem. “

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