As of this week, 70% of the adult population in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. While this progress represents a marked achievement in vaccinations that has led to steep declines in COVID-19 cases and deaths, vaccination coverage—and the protections provided by it—remains uneven across the country. With the growing spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are once again rising, largely among unvaccinated people. While White adults account for the largest share (57%) of unvaccinated adults, Black and Hispanic people remain less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, leaving them at increased risk, particularly as the variant spreads.
Reaching high vaccination rates across individuals and communities will be key for achieving broad protection through a vaccine, mitigating the disproportionate impacts of the virus for people of color, and preventing widening racial health disparities going forward. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has indicated that vaccine equity is an important goal and defined equity as preferential access and administration to those who have been most affected by COVID-19.
The CDC reports demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at the national level. As of August 2, 2021, CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for 58% of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two thirds were White (59%), 10% were Black, 16% were Hispanic, 6% were Asian, 1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 8% reported multiple or other race. However, CDC data also show that recent vaccinations are reaching larger shares of Hispanic, Asian, and Black populations compared to overall vaccinations. Twenty-six percent of vaccines administered in the past 14 days have gone to Hispanic people, 4% to Asian people, and 15% to Black people (Figure 1). These recent patterns suggest a narrowing of racial gaps in vaccinations at the national level, particularly for Hispanic and Black people, who account for a larger share of recent vaccinations compared to their share of the total population (26% vs. 17% and 15% vs. 12%, respectively). While these data provide helpful insights at a national level, to date, CDC is not publicly reporting state-level data on the racial/ethnic composition of people vaccinated.
To provide greater insight into who is receiving the vaccine and racial/ethnic disparities in vaccination, KFF is collecting and analyzing state-reported data on COVID-19 vaccinations by race/ethnicity. As of August 2, 2021, 46 states and Washington D.C. were reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity. This analysis examines how the vaccinations have been distributed by race/ethnicity and the share of the total population vaccinated by race/ethnicity. It also assesses trends in these data since March 1.
Distribution of Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity
Figure 2 shows the shares of COVID-19 vaccinations, cases, and deaths among Black, Hispanic, Asian, and White people. The data also show the distribution of the total population by these groups as of 2019. Data are not presented for other groups due to data limitations. Together these data show:
As observed in prior weeks, Black and Hispanic people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and compared to their shares of the total population in most states. The share of vaccinations received by Black people also continues to be smaller than their share of deaths in most states, although in some states it is similar to the share of deaths. The share of vaccinations received by Hispanic people is similar to or higher than their share of deaths in most reporting states, although in some states it continues to be lower. For example, in California, 30% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 63% of cases, 48% of deaths, and 40% of the total population in the state. Similarly, in the District of Columbia, Black people have received 43% of vaccinations, while they make up 56% of cases, 71% of deaths, and 46% of the total population. The size of these differences varies across states. The number of states where the shares of vaccinations received by Black and Hispanic people are more proportionate to their shares of the total population and/or their shares of cases or deaths in the state has grown over time.
In most states, the share of vaccinations among Asian people was similar to or higher than their share of cases, deaths, and total population, although, in a few states, it was lower. In Vermont, 2% of vaccinations have been received by Asian people, while they have accounted for 4% of cases. The share of vaccinations among Asian people was similar to or higher than their share of the total population in most states, except South Dakota and Pennsylvania, where it was lower. In Hawaii, 53% of vaccinations have been received by Asian people, which is higher than their share of the total population (40%), but closer to their share of cases and deaths (both at 48%).
White people received a higher share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases in most states reporting data. In about half of reporting states they received a higher share of vaccinations compared to their shares of deaths and total population, while in other states it was similar or lower. For example, in Colorado, 76% of vaccinations were received by White people, while they make up 68% of the population. In Tennessee, 65% of vaccinations have been received by White people, which is lower than their share of cases (71%), deaths (78%), and their share of the population (77%).
Between March 1 and August 2, the share of vaccinations going to Hispanic people increased in all states reporting data for both periods and increased for Black people in most reporting states. In a few cases, these increases were large. For example, the share of vaccinations going to Black people increased from 26% to 43% in DC and from 25% to 38% in Mississippi. Similarly, the share of vaccinations going to Hispanic people increased by at least 10 percentage points in six states, including Florida (17% to 31%), Nevada (13% to 26%), California (19% to 30%), New Jersey (6% to 17%), Texas (23% to 35%), and New York (9% to 19%). The share of vaccinations going to Asian people also increased in most states reporting data for both periods, while it fell for White people in most reporting states. The share going to White people declined by 10 percentage points or more in 14 states (Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, Maine, Illinois, Colorado, and New York).
Percent of the Total Population Vaccinated by Race/Ethnicity
We also calculate the percent of the total population that has received a COVID-19 vaccine for 42 states that report racial/ethnic data based on people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. (States that report race/ethnicity based on total doses administered are excluded from this analysis.) Figure 3 shows the percent of the total population who have been vaccinated by race/ethnicity in each of these states and the total across 40 of these states. (North Dakota and New Mexico are excluded from the total due to differences in how they report their data.) It also shows the ratio of vaccination rates for White people compared to those of Black, Hispanic, and Asian people as well as the percentage point difference between vaccination rates for White people and the rates for the other groups.
Overall, across these 40 states, the percent of White people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose (49%) was roughly 1.3 times higher than the rate for Black people (38%) and 1.1 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people (43%) as of August 2, 2021. White people had a higher vaccination rate compared to Hispanic people in all reporting states, except Missouri, Vermont, Tennessee, Louisiana, DC, and Virginia, and a higher rate than Black people in every reporting state, except Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, and Mississippi. However, the size of these differences varied widely across states. For example, White people were over twice as likely to have received a vaccine as Hispanic people in South Dakota and had at least a two times higher vaccination rate than Black people in Iowa and South Dakota. The overall vaccination rate across states for Asian people was higher compared to White people (66% vs. 49%), which is consistent with the pattern in most reporting states. However, Asian people had lower vaccinations rates than White people in five states (Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota).
As of August 2, less than half of Black and Hispanic people have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in the vast majority of states reporting data. The vaccination rate for Black people is less than 50% in 38 of 42 reporting states, including 7 states where less than a third of Black people have received one or more doses. Similarly, less than half of Hispanic people have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose in 32 of 40 reporting states, including 9 states where less than a third have received at least one dose. At least half of White people have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose in 17 of 42 states. The rate remains below 50% in the remaining 25 states but falls below a third in only one state, Idaho. At least half of Asian people have received one or more doses in most reporting states (33 of 39).
Between July 19 and August 2, Black and Hispanic people experienced a slightly larger increase in vaccination rates compared to White and Asian people (Figure 4). Vaccination rates increased by 1.9 percentage points for Hispanic people, from 40.7% to 42.6%, and by 1.8 percentage points for Black people, from 36.0% to 37.8%, while vaccination rates for Asian and White people both increased by 1.1 percentage points over the past two weeks (from 64.6% to 65.8% and from 47.7% to 48.8%, respectively.). The slightly larger increases in rates for Black and Hispanic people continued to narrow the gap in vaccination rates between these groups and White people.
States with the largest percentage point increases in vaccination rates over the past two weeks included some of those with the highest daily COVID cases per million. As of August 2, 2021, Louisiana, Florida, Arkansas, and Mississippi had the highest daily cases per million people. Louisiana, which had the highest daily cases per million, had some of the largest percentage point vaccination rate increases across racial ethnic groups. Louisiana had the second largest percentage point increase in the vaccination rates for White people (2.3 percentage points from 37.8% to 40.1%) and Asian people (2.7 percentage points from 70.5% to 73.2%), the third largest increase for Black people (2.9 percentage points from 37.4% to 40.3%), and the fourth largest increase for Hispanic people (2.9 percentage points from 39.6% to 42.5%). Similarly, Mississippi had the second largest percentage point increase in the vaccination rate for Black people (3.1 percentage points from 35.6% to 38.7%), the third largest percentage point increase for White people (2.0 percentage points from 35.6% to 37.7%), and the fourth largest for Asian people (2.4 percentage points from 72.2% to 74.7%). However, the increase in the vaccination rate for Hispanic people ranked 10th across states (2.2 percentage points from 31.2% to 33.4%). Florida had the sixth largest increase in vaccination rates for White and Hispanic people and the ninth largest increase in the vaccination rate for Black people. Arkansas does not publicly report vaccination data by race/ethnicity.
The completeness of race/ethnicity data has improved in most states since March 1. Most states have had declines in their shares of vaccinations with unknown or missing race, with some states, like Arizona, experiencing particularly large declines, falling from (36% of vaccinations with unknown race to 11%).
As the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, risks are increasing, particularly for people who remain unvaccinated. White people account for the largest share of people who remain unvaccinated (57%), but Black and Hispanic people are less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, leaving them at increased risk. These disparities in vaccination rates may lead to widening disparities going forward and limit the nation’s recovery.
The federal government, states, and local communities have implemented a range of strategies to address these disparities by making the vaccines more accessible and providing outreach and education to address questions and concerns about the vaccines. However, these data highlight the importance of continued efforts to increase vaccination rates and to address gaps in vaccination both geographically and across racial/ethnic groups. Overall efforts to increase vaccinations may help to reduce racial disparities in vaccination rates, as Black and Hispanic adults make up a larger share (40%) of unvaccinated adults who are open to getting a vaccine (those who want to “wait and see” how the vaccine is working for others) compared to their share of unvaccinated who say they will “definitely not” get the vaccine (26%). In contrast, those who say they will “definitely not” get a COVID-19 vaccine are overwhelmingly White adults—65% of the group compared to 50% of the “wait and see” group.
While the data provide useful insights, they also remain subject to gaps, limitations, and inconsistencies that limit the ability to get a complete picture of who is and who is not getting vaccinated. For example, data gaps and separate reporting of data for vaccinations administered through the Indian Health Service limit the ability to analyze vaccinations among American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander people. Moreover, some states have high shares of vaccinations that are missing race/ethnicity, limiting the ability to interpret the data. For example, in Washington D.C., 28% of vaccinations were among people classified as “unknown.” Three states were not reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity. Comprehensive standardized data across states are vital to monitor and ensure equitable access to and up take of the vaccine.
All reported data on vaccinations by race/ethnicity are available through our COVID-19 State Data and Policy Actions tracker and downloadable through our State Health Facts Online tables. KFF will continue to update these data on a regular basis going forward as vaccination distribution continues.
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