Pandemicking while Black: The racial disparity in vaccine distribution is stark

Exposing some deep flaws in our healthcare system:

Communities of color, which have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, have also received a smaller share of available vaccines. The vaccination rate for Black Americans is half that of white people, and the gap for Hispanic people is even larger, according to a New York Times analysis of state-reported race and ethnicity information.

“People of color are getting vaccinated at rates below their representation of the general population,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of President Biden’s coronavirus equity task force, said at a recent forum on the vaccine. “This narrative can be changed. It must be changed."

A quick perusal of the 10 worst states (highest minority populations, largest gaps) shows that 7 of them have not expanded Medicaid. It's not a big surprise, I kind of expected it. But it also demonstrates clearly that African-Americans suffer greatly from Republicans' refusal to expand. And it also goes a long way in explaining "why" they refuse to do so, although they would deny it with their dying breath. Here are some other factors that come into play:

Black and Hispanic Americans are less likely than their white counterparts to have internet access reliable enough to make online appointments; to have work schedules flexible enough to take any available opening; and to have access to dependable transportation to vaccine sites, among other factors. A lack of access to information about the vaccine through trusted providers can also lead to uncertainty and an unwillingness to get a shot.

States have begun to address these challenges by bringing vaccines to hard-hit communities and partnering with local groups to share information in multiple languages and in culturally appropriate ways, said Samantha Artiga, the director of the racial equity and health policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Ms. Artiga has analyzed vaccine disparities.

“One thing I will be keeping a close eye on going forward is whether these efforts translate into narrowing gaps in vaccination rates,” Ms. Artiga said. But racial and ethnic health disparities are longstanding and deeply rooted, according to public health experts.

Yes, North Carolina is in that group of 10, but our percentage gap is the smallest in that group, comparable to Virginia. But bringing that gap to zero should be a top priority.