According to the CDC, as of December 6, 2021, in total, there have been over 20 million cases and over 365,000 deaths from the virus . A further dive into these numbers shows that our initial hypothesis has been unfortunately true; Blacks have suffered tremendously and disproportionately from this virus. The racial and ethnic disparities in the effects of COVID-19 are striking. According to APM Research Lab, Blacks are experiencing COVID-19 death tolls exceeding 1 in 800 nationally, while White Americans are experiencing a death toll at 1 in 3125 nationally . Blacks have COVID-19 death rates of more than 2.7 times White Americans.
Racism and its subsequent effects on social and economic factors have resulted in the virus disproportionally affecting Black people. Our first peer-reviewed paper on COVID-19 stated that Blacks are disproportionately affected by poverty, mass incarceration, infant mortality, limited healthcare access, and health-related conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease, respiratory illness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) . We are also more likely to contract the virus and spread it within our communities because we are less likely to be able work from home and physically distance ourselves due to living, working, and commuting . Again, all of these factors have historical roots of racism and segregation that have been consciously and unconsciously carried on for decades, and to this day, creating direct and indirect negative effects on Blacks.
Given that the virus has hit the Black community the hardest, I am concerned now that vaccine hesitancy may perpetuate the health disparities that we are currently seeing in the numbers of infections and deaths taking place. Most studies, for instance, at this point, have found that Blacks as a community have the highest levels of individuals who state they will never get the vaccine or are not sure if they will get the vaccine, Fig. 1 [7, 8].
Many studies have noted that Black people cite distrust in the government and in the medical profession. Black people cite our nation’s history of racism in medical research and in medical care as key reasons for their hesitancy [9, 10]. This distrust is totally justified. There are also systemic and structural challenges relating to inadequate vaccine production and distribution; availability of needed vaccination supplies; and geographic, access, and transportation barriers. Recent studies have found that the Black communities are receiving low vaccination rates when compared to their total population. For example, data reported from 35 states by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) showed that the vaccination rates in Whites are two times higher than in Blacks (13% vs. 7%). .