Hindrances to the COVID-19 Vaccine: Racial Inequality and Misinformation

Story by: Ellie Stevens

Visuals by: Noah Weinberg

Date: 2/24/21

A report published on February 19th revealed that over 12% of the United States population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 5% completely vaccinated on two doses. COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically since the peak in January, and, although remaining extraordinarily high, deaths are beginning to slow. However, recent data released by the CDC reveals disparities in vaccine distribution regarding race, and misinformation continues to spread online, hindering the assault against the virus.

COVID-19’s impact has remained disproportionately severe for people of color, and existing disparities in vaccine accessibility and administration has worsened this problem in addition to disabling the possibility for more expansive population immunity. The CDC’s data reveals a consistent pattern of Black and Hispanic Americans receiving significantly fewer vaccines when compared to White people relative to population size, the number of deaths, and the number of cases. For example, Texas reported that Hispanic Americans have received 20% of its vaccines, despite accounting for 40% of the population, 47% of deaths, and 42% of cases. Overall, among the states reporting data regarding race and ethnicity, the vaccination rate for white people is three times larger than that for Hispanic people, and twice as large as the rate for Black Americans.

Although Facebook, one of the most popular platforms for the spread of anti-vaccine rhetoric, has banned some of the most active and popular accounts trivializing the virus, misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine continues to permeate social networks. Conspiracy theories, for example, claiming that the vaccine is a government trickery to control the population of the United States flood the media. However, these theories do not solely originate from radical, fringe anti-vaccine groups; a range of different communities – including New Age, QAnon, Libertarian, and anti-government groups – encourage this information and unite under fear and distrust. Since 2019, the anti-vaccination movement has gained over 8 million supporters, countering scientific efforts that would alleviate the country from the pandemic. Whether motivated by these theories or independent fear, 58% of Americans reported that they would not want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it became available, according to a YouGov poll released in August.

Americans who would get the COVID-19 vaccine vs. Americans who are not interested in recieving the COVID-19 vaccine

Reducing the spread of COVID-19 by administering the vaccine to the greatest number of Americans possible will require the active pursuit of vaccination for minority populations as well as the cooperation of the general public to reject misinformation. While still early in the vaccine distribution process, the racial disparities in receiving groups raise concerns about racial equality and the federal government’s approach to immunization. These minority groups require additional attention and effort on behalf of the government to alleviate the disproportionate impact of the virus as well as to foster national immunity. Additionally, misinformation continues to dissuade Americans from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Therefore, education on the science behind the vaccine as well as an active effort to oppose the spread of false claims remain vital to combating this threat to public health.

Sources :

"Latest Data on COVID-19 Vaccinations Race/Ethnicity"
"Covid-19 vaccines face a varied and powerful misinformation movement online"
"Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count"
"New data on COVID-19 vaccination by race and ethnicity highlight inequities"