As noted in previous analysis, preventing racial disparities in the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines will be important to help mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the virus for people of color and prevent widening racial health disparities going forward. Moreover, reaching high vaccination rates across individuals and communities will be key for achieving broader population immunity through a vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at the national level. As of March 29, 2021, CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for just over half (53%) of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two thirds were White (66%), 9% were Hispanic, 8% were Black, 5% were Asian, 1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 10% reported multiple or other race. However, to date, CDC is not providing state-level demographic data for people vaccinated.

To provide greater insight into who is receiving the vaccine and whether some groups are facing disparities in vaccination, KFF is collecting and analyzing state-reported data on COVID-19 vaccinations by race/ethnicity. As of March 29, 2021, 47 states were reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity. This analysis examines how the vaccinations have been distributed by race/ethnicity and the share of the total population vaccinated by race/ethnicity. It also assesses trends in these data since March 1.

Distribution of Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity

Figure 1 shows the shares of COVID-19 vaccinations, cases, and deaths among Black, Hispanic, Asian, and White people as of March 29, 2021. The data also show the distribution of the total population by these groups as of 2019. Data are not presented for other groups due to data limitations. Together these data show:

As observed in prior weeks, there is a consistent pattern across states of Black and Hispanic people receiving smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population. For example, in California, 22% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 55% of cases, 47% of deaths, and 40% of the total population in the state. Similarly, in the District of Columbia, Black people have received 36% of vaccinations, while they make up 49% of cases, 69% of deaths, and 46% of the total population. However, the size of these differences varies across states, with smaller differences observed largely in states that have smaller shares of Hispanic and Black residents overall.

In most states, the share of vaccinations among Asian people was similar to or higher than their share of cases and deaths, although, in some states, it was lower. The share of vaccinations among Asian people was similar to their share of the total population in most states, although, in some states, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia it was lower. In Hawaii, 57% of vaccinations have been received by Asian people, which is higher than their share of the total population (40%), but similar to their share of deaths (51%).

White people received a higher share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases and deaths and their share of the total population in most states reporting data. For example, in Colorado, 83% of vaccinations were received by White people, while they make up 68% of the population. In Alaska, over a third (36%) of vaccinations have been received by White people, which is proportional to their share of cases (38%) and deaths (37%), but lower than their share of the population (65%). This pattern, in part, reflects that the share of vaccinations received by American Indian and Alaska Native people (22%) is higher than their share of the total population (15%) and closer to their shares of cases (26%) and deaths (36%) in the state.

Percent of the Total Population Vaccinated by Race/Ethnicity

We also calculate the percent of the total population that has received a vaccine for the 42 states that report racial/ethnic data based on people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. (States that report race/ethnicity based on total doses administered are excluded from this analysis.) Figure 2 shows the percent of the total population who have been vaccinated by race/ethnicity in each of these states and the total across 40 of these states. (North Dakota and New Mexico are excluded from the total due to differences in how they report their data.) It also shows the ratio of vaccination rates for White people compared to those of Black, Hispanic, and Asian people as well as the percentage point difference between vaccination rates for White people and the rates for the other groups.

Overall, across these 40 states, the vaccination rate among White people was nearly twice as high as the rate for Hispanic people (25% vs. 13%), and 1.7 times as high as the rate for Black people (25% vs. 15%). White people have a higher vaccination rate compared to Hispanic people in all reporting states and a higher rate than Black people in every reporting state except Alaska. However, the size of these differences varies widely across states. For example, White people are nearly four times as likely to be vaccinated than Hispanic people in Pennsylvania and Georgia, while differences are smaller in New Mexico, Missouri, and Alaska. Vaccination rates for White people are over three times higher than the rates for Black people in Iowa and Pennsylvania, while differences are smaller in places like DC, Mississippi, and Oregon and rates are similar in Alaska. The vaccination rate for Asian people is closer to the rate for White people in most reporting states, although they are less likely to have been vaccinated in most reporting states.

Since March 1, the share of the population who has received a COVID-19 vaccine has increased across racial/ethnic groups, but vaccination rates for White people have remained higher compared to rates for Asian, Black, and Hispanic people, with the largest gaps for Black and Hispanic people (Figure 3). While the ratio of White vaccination rates compared to rates for other groups has decreased, the absolute difference between rates increased in most states reporting data across the period. The completeness of race/ethnicity data has improved in most states since March 1, with some states, such as Utah, Arizona, Texas, Alaska, and Michigan, having large declines in the share of vaccinations with unknown or missing race. Continuing to monitor the data over time will be important for obtaining better insight into whether disparities are persisting and widening or narrowing and how this pattern may vary across states.

Figure 3: Percent of Total Population that Has Received a COVID-19 Vaccine by Race/Ethnicity, March 1 to 29, 2021

Figure 3: Percent of Total Population that Has Received a COVID-19 Vaccine by Race/Ethnicity, March 1 to 29, 2021

Discussion

Together, these data raise concerns about racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations. Preventing such disparities will be important to mitigate the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic for people of color, prevent widening disparities going forward, and achieve broad population immunity. A number of states are implementing strategies to address these disparities, and the federal government is launching a range of approaches to expand vaccine access and uptake, with a particular focus on reaching underserved areas and communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Monitoring these data over time can help provide insight into whether these efforts help to reduce racial gaps in vaccinations and direct continued action going forward.

While the data provide useful insights, they also remain subject to gaps, limitations, and inconsistencies that limit the ability to get a complete picture of who is and who is not getting vaccinated. For example, data gaps and separate reporting of data for vaccinations administered through the Indian Health Service limit the ability to analyze vaccinations among American Indian and Alaska Native people and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. Moreover, some states have high shares of vaccinations that are missing race/ethnicity or that are classified as “other,” limiting the ability to interpret the data. For example, in Alaska, over 30% of vaccinations were among people classified as “other” race, and race was unknown for over 30% of vaccinations in Michigan and Virginia. Four states were not yet reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity. Comprehensive standardized data across states will be vital to monitor and ensure equitable access to and take up of the vaccine.

All reported data on vaccinations by race/ethnicity are available through our COVID-19 State Data and Policy Actions tracker and downloadable through our State Health Facts Online tables. KFF will be continuing to update these data on a regular basis going forward as vaccination distribution continues and more people become eligible.



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