House Democrat calls for demographic breakdown on COVID-19 vaccines
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) on Sunday called on Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, to collect and provide data breaking down the demographics of vaccine administration in order to address health inequities across vulnerable populations.
“Racial inequities in health, justice, housing, employment, and education have been rife and buried deeply into our nation’s social fabric,” Meng said in a statement. “Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, other minority groups, the LGBTQI community, and disabled Americans have struggled to achieve true equality before the national health pandemic happened.”
Meng is currently looking to get other lawmakers to sign a letter to Becerra, which she plans to send on Monday.
“A national demographic breakdown of administered COVID-19 vaccines is imperative for Congress to assess and address where the gaps are in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout,” Meng wrote. “This information will also be critical in addressing long-term health disparities and racial inequalities among vulnerable populations.”
“Everyone must be vaccinated, and communities of color must have equal access,” Meng said.
In her letter, Meng inquired about what vaccine administration data has been received from states and territories thus far, whether or not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has collected demographic data on vaccines and what the government agency planned to do to address “social vulnerability” in vaccine distribution.
As communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities, have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, data has suggested that they have received comparably smaller shares of the vaccine when compared more White, wealthier populations.
Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to work in jobs that expose them to the virus and are more likely to suffer from a more severe case of the virus due to underlying health conditions.
Apart from lack of access, vaccine hesitation may have also contributed to the lower immunization rate in these communities. A recent Pew Research study found that 42 percent of Black Americans said they would get the vaccine compared to more than 60 percent of White and Hispanic adults.
Biden’s nominee for Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, addressed the apparent inequity in an interview last week and appeared to share in Meng’s call for demographic data to be collected.
“We already know from the COVID crisis over the past year that there are certain communities that have been hard hit by this virus, that rural communities have had a harder time getting access to resources, that communities of color have experienced more cases and deaths, that seniors have struggled, especially those in long-term facilities,” Murthy said.
“We have got to make sure that we have data on where the vaccine is being administered, so that we can ensure that it, in fact, is being distributed equitably,” Murthy added.