After targeted campaigns helped narrow the racial divide in vaccination levels in the United States last fall, the gap has reopened for booster vaccines.
Proponents say distrust in public health systems, access problems and staff shortages have prevented blacks and Hispanics from receiving boosters in the same proportions as their white peers.
The differences are significant, as blacks and Hispanics have died from Covid-19 at disproportionately higher levels than whites, and staff are working hard to promote the vaccine in these communities. Health officials are working with religious leaders and community organizations to address concerns about the vaccine and make it more accessible.
Eleven states plus Washington DC are tracking booster recipients by race and ethnicity. In these places, the booster rates for white people (as a share of the fully vaccinated population) are among the highest, while the rates for blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind.
In Illinois, for example, more than half of fully vaccinated whites received their booster doses by Jan. 19, compared with 38 percent of blacks and 33 percent of Spaniards. The white population of the United States also distorts age, which means that more white people are advised to receive boosters earlier.
The gap raises the question of whether booster campaigns reach some of the most vulnerable populations as cases of Omicron, the new variant of the virus, increase.
“When we see differences in the administration of the primary series, we know that this will have a downward effect on the share of the growing population,” said Joe Coyle, director of the Infectious Diseases Prevention Bureau in Michigan. “Obviously it has a cascading effect.”
White people disproportionately received the original doses of the vaccine when the launch began last spring. The limited supply of vaccines and sophisticated online planning systems have made photography less available in low-income colored communities, which have also expressed hesitation about the vaccine. In May, only 56% of blacks and 57% of elderly Spaniards said they had received at least one dose, compared to 65% of white adults, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Until September, Marcela Nunes-Smith, head of Joe Biden’s Justice Task Force on Covid-19, cited data from a study showing roughly equal percentages of white, black and Hispanic adults who reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. saying that the numbers are “very, very encouraging.”
But then Omicron caused record-breaking infections and prompted the CDC to recommend an additional dose of vaccine.
Omicron has also caused a shortage of staff in care facilities across the country, forcing much of the previously established field work to be reduced, according to Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at Johns Hopkins University who also runs a research coalition, Community Vax that he studies black and Spanish communities.
“There is a return to the focus on more centralized clinics, as opposed to meeting people where they are in the community, in places like barbershops, which have hosted vaccine clinics in the past,” Shoh-Spana said.
She added: “The scarce resource now is the staff. There are fewer health professionals serving clinics, where there is not a large number, but a smaller number of target groups, but with a significant impact on public health.
It is also difficult to trace the acceptance of the amplifier shot by racial groups. The CDC does not take into account the race or ethnicity of recipients under the age of 65, as it does with initial doses of the vaccine.
Among people aged 65 and over, federal data show that whites make up a slightly higher proportion of booster recipients in this age group than their share of the fully vaccinated population, while blacks and Spaniards make up a slightly lower proportion.
The gaps are more significant at the state level.
There are more than 15 racial differences in Michigan, with 52% of fully vaccinated whites receiving a booster dose as of January 18, compared with 37.3% of fully vaccinated blacks and 33.6% of fully vaccinated Hispanics. . The differences are greatest among young people.
Surveys show the same pattern across the country. Among the 30-39 age group, 42 percent of fully vaccinated white people between the ages of 30 and 39 received a booster dose, compared with 21 percent of black people and 28 percent of Spanish-speaking people.
It often doesn’t take long to convince fully vaccinated patients to get a booster vaccine, said Brittany James, who practices at a medical clinic that serves mostly black people in southern Chicago. The challenge, she said, is to make sure they know they qualify to get one and know where to find it. Three out of ten adult blacks and Spanish are unsure or unaware that they need a booster, a study found.
“When the CDC finally decided to make that change, too[recommend boosters for everybody over 18]. . . Who knows how well this was reported? “Said William Parker, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago.
Celine Gunder, an epidemiologist working in the Biden administration’s Covid-19 transition team’s advisory panel, said high levels of booster acceptance among the elderly are a good sign, as they are the demographic groups that have benefited the most. -a lot of boosters.
However, Gunder also cited data showing that white and educated people with higher incomes are among the most likely to have received boosters.
“People who get incentives, leaving aside the older demographic, are largely people who are relatively at lower risk than others,” she said. “This means that your profitability in terms of the actual impact on hospitalizations and deaths will be lower than if you are sure that you reach these more vulnerable groups.
The range of these populations is unlikely to resume until the wave of Omicron subsides, Shoch-Spanna fears.
“We go back in some ways to the early days,” Shoh-Spana said. “It’s déjà vu.”
Additional reports by Caitlin Gilbert