Black ExperienceCoronavirusCovid-19HealthStacy M. Brown

Vaccine Uptick Found in Blacks but Access and Misinformation Still Confound African-American Community

The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the life span for Black males by an average of three years and has robbed Hispanic men of about 2.5 years, according to the latest information from health officials.

Black females have seen a more than two-year reduction in their average lifespan because of the pandemic. In contrast, Hispanic females fared better by losing slightly less than their African American peers.

The life expectancy for white males and females decreased by just over one year.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) noted that its Vaccine Monitor found that more than seven-in-10 U.S. adults (72 percent) now report being at least partially vaccinated.

According to the foundation’s report, similar shares of Hispanic (73 percent), Black (70 percent), and white (71 percent) adults now report having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

That marks a change from earlier in the vaccination effort when Black and Hispanic adults were much less likely to report being vaccinated than white adults and reflecting other data showing that people of color made up a disproportionate share of recent vaccinations.

“KFF’s analysis of state data on vaccination rates by race and ethnicity suggests that, when looking at people of all ages including children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, white people continue to be vaccinated at higher rates than either Black or Hispanic people, although those gaps have narrowed over time,” the researchers wrote.

KFF identified the Delta variant, surges in cases and increased hospitalizations and deaths as the primary motivators for the recent uptick in vaccinations.

KFF researchers also noted other factors playing minor roles in the uptick in vaccinations, like full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and an increase in vaccine mandates.

The most significant increases in vaccine uptake between July and September were among Hispanic adults and those ages 18-29 with similar shares of adults now reporting being vaccinated across racial and ethnic groups (71 percent of white adults, 70 percent of Black adults and 73 percent of Hispanic adults).

KFF found significant gaps in vaccine uptake by partisanship, education level, age and health insurance status.

Research revealed that 90 percent of those identified as Democrats had received at least one dose, while 52 percent of Republicans point to the booster shots as a reason to distrust the science behind the vaccines.

Researchers from various groups have acknowledged that the coronavirus has spotlighted the majority of racial and ethnic inequities in access to health.

According to KFF researchers, Black people have received smaller vaccination shares than their shares of cases, deaths and the total population in more than half of states reporting data.

For instance, in the District, Blacks represent 45 percent of those who received at least one dose  and make up 56 percent of COVID cases.

African Americans comprise 46 percent of the District’s population but 71 percent of all COVID deaths.

Approximately 49 percent of whites in D.C. have received at least one dose and comprise just 19 percent of COVID cases. Meanwhile, while the District’s white population stands at 41 percent, the death rate from COVID among whites remains 13 percent.

Vaccination rates among African Americans by state continue to raise alarms.

Multiple states, including Vermont, Utah, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Hawaii, report that just 1 percent of their African-American population has received a COVID vaccine.

Alaska, Iowa, Maine, and New Mexico report just 2 percent of their Black population vaccinated.

D.C. at 45 percent, Mississippi at 38 percent and South Carolina at 22 percent, represent the highest number of vaccines among African Americans.

“The reason why Black and Brown Americans had low uptake of vaccines early in the rollout is that they could not get one even if they wanted to,” Dr. Ebony J. Hilton, a critical care anesthesiologist at the University of Virginia and founder of GoodStock Consulting, LLC, tweeted.

Dr. Hilton has denounced things like quick re-openings, anti-vaxxers and reckless gatherings during the pandemic.

“The CDC guidelines were pro-white in design. Prioritization is defined along the lines of age and employment and not risk,” Dr. Hilton wrote.

Dr. Hilton has repeatedly asked the CDC about changing protocols when it comes to booster shots.

“How are we not repeating this same injustice in the face of racial health disparities as it pertains to boosters? As a result, black Americans die at younger ages, higher rates and have already lost three years of life expectancy,” Dr. Hilton said.

“Race is an independent risk factor,” she declared, adding further that “this will be a stain on the history of America.”

“It is inexcusable, and we, the medical community, and the CDC have to account for our contribution,” Dr. Hilton concluded.

Of individuals who received their first COVID-19 dose since June 1, 39 percent reported that the increase in cases due to the Delta variant was why they got vaccinated.

Thirty-eight percent said they were concerned about the crowding of local hospitals and intensive care units.

In comparison, 36 percent said they knew someone who became seriously ill or died from COVID and 35 percent responded they wanted to participate in activities that require vaccination.

Some still unvaccinated said they don’t believe the vaccines can prevent them from contracting the virus, so why bother? However, medical science shows that while vaccines cannot prevent the virus from entering a person’s body, the shots are designed to help fight off serious illness and death.

Others who oppose the vaccines cite the seemingly rapid development of the doses.

“They weren’t rushed,” former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden noted.

“mRNA technology has been researched for more than 20 years. We’re fortunate that it works extraordinarily well for the virus that causes COVID and it may also work for other viruses, such as influenza, in the future,” Dr. Frieden asserted.

“The reason we see alarming rates of hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. is because many people are still unvaccinated,” he said. “Booster shots may help some people but our biggest challenge is vaccinating those who haven’t gotten their first shot.”

Stacy M. Brown

I’ve worked for the Daily News of Los Angeles, the L.A. Times, Gannet and the Times-Tribune and have contributed to the Pocono Record, the New York Post and the New York Times. Television news opportunities have included: NBC, MSNBC, Scarborough Country, the Abrams Report, Today, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Imus in the Morning and Anderson Cooper 360. Radio programs like the Wendy Williams Experience, Tom Joyner Morning Show and the Howard Stern Show have also provided me the chance to share my views.

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