US health agency alarmed by slow vaccination rate for African Americans

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African Americans are vaccinated much slower than whites, according to data from the U.S. public health body, even though they represent disproportionately high levels of Covid-19 cases and deaths.

Figures released Monday by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that while blacks account for more than 15% of Covid-19-related deaths, they only represent 5% of vaccinations given in the first month of the month. vaccine program.

The data adds to concern at the top of the Biden administration that ethnic minorities, and blacks in particular, are proving difficult to reach for a number of reasons, including concerns about vaccine safety.

The CDC report warned: “As the immunization program grows, it is critical to ensure efficient and equitable administration to people in each successive priority vaccine category, especially those at highest risk. risk of infection and serious health problems. “

Marcella Nunez-Smith, head of President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 equity task force, said: “There are several reasons why we are already behind on this issue just a month and a half after launch. of the vaccine: the lack of coordination before; uneven deployment between states; an inconsistent emphasis on equity in the early days of vaccination. “

Mr. Biden took office last month promising to speed up the US vaccination schedule, which lags behind vaccination campaigns in Israel, UK, Bahrain and UAE.

But officials are increasingly concerned that in the fight to immunize as many people as possible, some of the most vulnerable members of society will be left behind.

African Americans have been disproportionately hit hard by Covid-19, in part because many work in the healthcare industry. As a result, the CDC hoped that making healthcare workers among the first to get vaccinated would help tackle the racial inequalities the disease has exposed and exacerbated.

Experts warn, however, that many African Americans are concerned about the safety of the vaccine and are wary of public health experts who try to persuade them to take it.

One of the reasons is memories of scandals such as the Tuskegee experiment, where U.S. public health officials allowed syphilis to spread untreated among black American men to track the disease’s progress.

CDC data also suggests that “vaccine hesitancy” may be high among nursing home staff. A separate report also released on Monday showed that in nursing homes that had housed at least one vaccination clinic, nearly 80% of residents had been vaccinated, but less than 40% of staff.

As the Biden administration tries to speed up the pace of vaccinations, especially in vulnerable populations, it is also trying to increase the number of available coronavirus tests.

Andy Slavitt, a senior White House coronavirus adviser, said on Monday that the federal government had granted Australian testing company Ellume $ 230 million to help it do more over-the-counter tests that can be administered at home . The Food and Drug Administration approved the tests in December.

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