U.S. Lacks Race, Ethnic Data on Half of Covid Vaccinations

The first detailed picture of the U.S. vaccination campaign shows low rates of shots for long-term care workers and wide gaps in data on the race and ethnicity of Americans getting the vaccine.

At more than 11,000 nursing facilities, a median of 78% of residents got at least one dose in the early weeks of a federal program run with CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. Among staff, the equivalent level was 37.5% vaccinated, according to data released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A second CDC report found that while age and gender data was recorded for almost all of the 13 million Americans who got at least one dose through Jan. 14, the government lacks data on race and ethnicity almost half of those immunized. And Biden administration officials today said the U.S. also has no such data for nearly a quarter of Covid hospitalizations and 49% of total cases.

“We cannot ensure an equitable vaccination program without data to guide us,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, who leads U.S. President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force. “I’m worried about how behind we are. We must address these insufficient data points as an urgent priority.”

Nunez-Smith, who highlighted the data gaps at a briefing Monday, said Covid-19 equity “must be achieved by a very wide lens. We know that this disease has not affected all racial ethnic groups the same.”

Among those hose who got at least one dose of the vaccine, 60% were non-Hispanic White, 11.5% were Hispanic or Latino, 5.4% were Black, 6% were Asian. Those recorded as other or multiple races accounted for 14.4%.

Interpretation Limited

The CDC report cautioned that interpretation of the demographic data is limited because of the data gaps and differences in how race and ethnicity is recorded. But the percentage of vaccine recipients who are Black “appears lower relative to the percentage of persons who are Black” in populations prioritized for the vaccine, including long-term care residents and health-care workers.

The data might be skewed on the number of total cases too, Nunez-Smith said. Communities of color generally have less access to testing, particularly for mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic cases, she said.

It’s possible the 49% of cases with no data mirror the demographics of the rest of the cases, but “it is more likely that it reflects some inherent inequities and how our data are collected and reported,” she said.

Three Clinics

In the federal program for long-term care settings, pharmacy chains host a series of three clinics at facilities to administer the two-shot inoculations. Some have reported significant increases in uptake among staff during the second clinic.

In Louisiana, only 26% of nursing-home workers who were offered a vaccine during the initial clinics received one, compared with 69% of residents, said Joseph Kanter, an official with the Louisiana Department of Health.

But the state is seeing a “dramatic increase” in vaccinations among employees amid the second of three scheduled visits, he said.

The White House said Monday that some long-term care homes have received more doses than they have residents, which is a factor in some states’ sluggishness in administering doses they’ve received.

“We have been working with states and with those distributors to make sure that those excess doses quickly get to the places that they’re needed when they exist,” Andy Slavitt, a senior adviser to Biden’s Covid-19 Response Team, said at the briefing Monday.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.