Federal health centers administer most COVID-19 vaccines to minorities
As of July, federally qualified health centers had administered 61.4% of their COVID-19 vaccines to people of races and ethnicities other than white, researchers reported in JAMA Network Open.
Comparatively, in the general United States population, 40% of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to racial and ethnic minority groups, according to Megan B. Cole, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of health law, policy and management and co-director of the Boston University Medicaid Policy Lab, and colleagues.
Cole and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study using data for COVID-19 vaccinations occurring from Jan. 8 through July 2 at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in the U.S. They excluded FQHCs that reported data less than 80% of all biweeks (n = 234), were located in U.S. territories (n = 32), or had fewer than 10 vaccines administered per week (n = 22).
“FQHCs have played a critical role in enabling equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in marginalized communities that are otherwise often least likely to receive the vaccine,” Cole said in a press release.
The study included 1,096 FQHCs serving 25.9 million people. Among them, 56% were female, 0.7% identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native, 2.9% as Asian, 17.5 as Black, 42% as Hispanic, 34.9% as white and 2% as other races.
A total of 5,606,679 vaccinations were administered to patients with a known race or ethnicity. Race and ethnicity were unknown for 18.7% of patients.
“These populations may not otherwise have easy access to a vaccine clinic or may not trust other types of institutions with histories of racism or that have systematically failed them,” Cole said.
By July 2, a total of 30,852 patients identifying as American Indian or Alaskan Native, 618,024 Asian, 684,792 Black, 2,181,502 Hispanic, and 116,683 other minorities received first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at FQHCs.
According to the authors, the cumulative proportion of Black and Hispanic patients who received a vaccine at FQHCs increased over time.
Initially, American Indian or Alaskan Natives, Asian, and white patients were more likely to receive the vaccine, whereas Black and Hispanic patients were less likely to receive the vaccine, the authors wrote. Equity changed over time, and by April 16, all minority groups experienced statistical equity, other than Black patients, who by July had an equity ratio of 0.94 (95% CI, 0.88-0.99).
“Persistent COVID-19 vaccine inequities among Black communities [are] likely shaped by greater structural barriers to accessing the vaccine, combined with medical mistrust stemming from decades of systemic racism in the medical community,” Cole said. “FQHCs can help to further mitigate these drivers through continued partnerships with community organizations, targeted outreach, mobile and pop-up clinics with extended hours, and by providing culturally competent and linguistically appropriate information to all patients.”