As of Feb. 8, 2021, less than 3%of the U.S. population have been vaccinated. Though data is limited, and race and ethnicity are widely under-reported, preliminary data does show racial disparities- 60.4% of vaccine recipients were white and 39.6% were people of color. Of the 6.7 million doses administered through Jan. 14, 2021, only 50% documented race and ethnicity data of vaccine recipients. The available data highlights disparities in communities of color: 4% were Black (though Black people make up 12.2% of the population), and 5% were Hispanic/Latino (18.5% of the population). Social media, family members, and news outlets are the most concentrated areas for communication, with many Americans having deep skepticism for rushed vaccines and mistrust in the government. Nationally, a $250 million public information campaign by national health officials is underway to build public confidence in the vaccine, with part of that effort directed at communities of color.
Examples of States Increasing Outreach to Under-Vaccinated Groups
- North Carolina, in partnership with Novant Health, as a low-cost strategy to increase vaccination has been part of a broader effort from faith communities and local hospital systems to increase vaccine participation in Black, Hispanic and other marginalized communities that have been disproportionately hit by the corona virus pandemic by identifying a number of sites for future vaccine clinics — churches, some Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools and community health clinics, and Atrium Health. In January, Atrium Health vaccinated roughly 19,000 people at the Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium Friday, and Novant opened a mass vaccination site in Winston-Salem, with detailed plans to open two sites in Charlotte by February. The state’s health officials are taking action to reduce negative corona virus conspiracy theories and correcting misinformation surrounding vaccinations by clearly communicating vaccine efforts across its government website, and through publicly sanctioned media outlets- news stations. In a July report (Center for Countering Digital Hate), falsehoods about a COVID-19 vaccine have been prevalent on social media sites for months and have gotten worse over time. Because of these widespread falsehoods, 35% of U.S. citizens say they will not get vaccinated. North Caolina’s strategy is simply- to invest in communication early, communicating often, and communicating through trusted entities, and engage media alongside those partnering in the effort to get the vaccine to as many people as possible. The state has a COVID-19 Toolkit website that provides information to share with communities, including health care professionals, team leaders, community and business leaders and non-profit organizations, can use and adapt the resources here to build confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines.
- Florida’s COVID-19 vaccination rate remains low among Blacks and Hispanics, despite initiatives announced by the governor to increase shot distribution to under served communities. In partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, local agencies have opened 4 mass vaccination sites in Florida- at Miami Dade College’s North Campus and the others in Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville. At each site, two mobile units will travel to nearby under served areas to give out 500 vaccinations a day. In early January, faced with evidence that black Floridians constituted a small percentage of those vaccinated, the governor announced vaccination sites would be set up at churches in minority communities. At the time, Publix stores were getting 20,000 doses a week in Palm Beach County alone, neglecting poor neighborhoods, forcing officials to establish a vaccination clinic in Pahokee. This week, the Division of Emergency Management and Florida A&M University announced a state-supported vaccination site will open at the historically black university in Tallahassee. Florida has held events at 51 places of worship statewide and administered more than 42,000 vaccines through these one-day vaccination clinics. Floridians will also have access to additional COVID-19 vaccines at 755 pharmacy locations across 52 counties by registering through retail pharmacy websites at Walmart, Sam’s Club and Winn Dixie. In addition, doses of the Moderna vaccine have been distributed to 227 hospital locations that did not receive doses in the first allocation of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The state of Florida is committed to providing timely updates regarding the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine provided via the state’s government website, and local, state-wide media stations.
- Texas’ strategy to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine is through the Department of Social and Health Services by implementing a multi-faceted communication strategy to inform and educate both providers and the public. Of the nearly 1.4 million Texans who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, race or ethnicity is not known for about 45%. Of the 756,000 vaccine recipients whose demographic information was recorded, more than 51% were white, 16.7% were reported as “other,” 15.1% were Hispanic, 9.6% were Asian, and 7.3% were Black. The state is distributing doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines statewide to hospitals, pharmacies, local health departments, freestanding ERs, and other clinics. State officials are leveraging their website, communication, and social media strategies to augment and expand upon COVID-19 vaccine communications, and DSHS has coordinated with the Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and other state agency partners for further support and assistance of vaccine distribution. Federal mass vaccination sites will be open at AT&T Stadium, Fair Park and NRG Stadium will open on February 24, with most vaccine sites requiring scheduled appointments online or by phone. Residents and staff of long-term care facilities are being vaccinated through a federal program utilizing CVS and Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccines on-site at facilities. The states’ public health officials have been very slow to provide support and access to testing and treatment for African Americans and Latinos. In order to reach the black community and other residents who may be hesitant about the vaccine, the system is partnering with churches and other local groups that advocate for people of color to hold town hall-style meetings and use other communication strategies to answer questions and address concerns. As a way to promote the vaccine, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, and Texas Health Commissioner, Dr. John Hellerstedt, got their injections in a live streamed event, which was advised by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.