Racial Disparities Seen in New York City Vaccination Rates

new york vaccine racial disparity
A CVS pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for residents at the Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, earlier this month. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Black and Latino New York City residents are receiving COVID-19 vaccines at far lower rates than white or Asian New Yorkers, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged Sunday, as he vowed to continue expanding access to the shots in minority communities that have been ravaged by the virus.

The data released by the city’s health department shows that 48% of the New York City residents who have gotten at least one vaccine dose are white, a figure that far exceeds the roughly one-third of the city’s population that is non-Hispanic white.

The vaccine numbers are incomplete because about 40% of people who have been vaccinated in the city haven’t provided demographic information. Still, the figures mirror vaccination data from other cities and states, with black people in all locations getting inoculated at levels below their share of the population.

Just 11% of vaccine doses administered to New York City residents went to blacks and 15% to Latinos, although black and Latinos make up 24% and 29% of the city’s population, respectively. The percentage of vaccine doses that went to Asians, 15%, is about the same as their proportion of the city’s population, 14%.

“Clearly, we do see a profound disparity that needs to be addressed aggressively and creatively,” de Blasio said at a press conference Sunday. “We’ve got a profound problem of distrust and hesitancy, particularly in communities of color.”

De Blasio said that measures intended to boost vaccination rates in communities of color will include streamlining the cumbersome application process and translating the materials into additional languages.

Outreach efforts aimed at combating vaccine distrust in some communities have included virtual appearances by the mayor at black churches.

The COVID pandemic has killed blacks and Latinos at disproportionately high rates in New York City and across the nation, and advocates who feared that the vaccination data would show similar disparities had pressed de Blasio to release the numbers.

“The demographic data on vaccine distribution that the city finally released today after long delays confirms what we feared and expected — that the people and communities of more color, disproportionately harmed by the pandemic, have been disproportionately hindered in equitable access to vaccination,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said in a statement.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the statewide breakdown of who has been vaccinated will be released in the coming days, but he expects those numbers to show racial disparities as well.

“You’re going to see the black population with the highest hesitance, then Latino, then Asian, then white,” Cuomo said in a separate press conference.

Cuomo said the state plans to advertise the coronavirus vaccine with a campaign directed specifically at blacks.

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