WASHINGTON — The White House is publicizing new findings that suggest the months-long effort by federal, state and local public health officials to reach African Americans and Latinos is showing the intended results, with coronavirus vaccination rates for those groups on par with that for white Americans.
“We know our work isn’t done, but this is important progress,” said Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic response team coordinator, during a Tuesday briefing. Zients cited a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows near-identical vaccination rates across ethnic groups: 71 percent for white Americans, 70 percent for African Americans and 73 percent for Latinos.
Since the pandemic began, social and economic inequality have only exacerbated the ravages of COVID-19, leading some to describe it as a “racial pandemic.” When vaccines first became available, a racial gap also emerged, leading some to worry that people of color would be left out of the vaccination drive.
“There were many reasons for this gap, including barriers to vaccine access, and some still had concerns about the safety, the efficacy, of the vaccines,” said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a health equity expert at Yale University who is a member of the White House coronavirus task force, at Tuesday’s briefing. “And those concerns were often rooted in misinformation,” she said, an apparent reference to falsehood-ridden outreach campaigns to Black communities by anti-vaccine advocates who preyed on the history of institutional racism to build a dubious case against the coronavirus vaccine.
Nunez-Smith noted that a Pew Research Center survey of 10,000 adults, as well as a survey of 19,000 adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yielded results hewing closely to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s findings.
“It’s very, very encouraging to see,” she said.
Some have criticized the administration’s focus on equity, arguing that an age-based approach would have been speedier. The administration countered by saying that it would be fast and fair, offering incentives and partnering with Black churches and hair salons, among other institutions. Later, the Biden administration instituted vaccination mandates, which have affected millions of public- and private-sector employees.
Encouraging signs that the racial vaccination gap was closing appeared in the summer. Yet even as that gap closes, the overall vaccination campaign is now seeing the lowest daily uptake since the Biden presidency began.
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