National Civil Rights Group and Hundreds of Medical Professionals Call on States to Release Racial Data .
(Washington, D.C.) – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law along with 145 medical professionals issued letters to 29 states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday, calling for the collection and publication of race and ethnic demographic data related to COVID-19 vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directs vaccine providers to collect and report racial and ethnic demographic data related to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are urging these 29 states and the District of Columbia to immediately start collecting, analyzing, and reporting on racial and ethnic demographic data for COVID-19 vaccine administrations,” said Dorian Spence, director, Special Litigation at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Increasing transparency throughout this process will better inform the public health response in Black and other historically marginalized communities and ensure COVID-19 vaccines are being equitably distributed.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color by nearly every measure, and racial and ethnic demographic data has proved to be an essential tool for highlighting racial disparities and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. It is concerning that these states have failed to provide racial and ethnic demographic data related to vaccine distribution.
“Despite race/ethnicity being repeatedly shown as an independent risk factor for morbidity and mortality, this identifier is missing for 49% of the known infections and 33% of deaths associated with COVID-19,” said Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University of Virginia. “Currently only 16 states report race/ethnicity for persons they have vaccinated. In denying access to this information, we are limited in our abilities to address systemic flaws leading to the disparities, and the cost of that lag in activity is human life.”
As Black and other historically marginalized communities continue to get sicker and die at greater rates than their white counterparts, equitable access to the vaccine – and the data which demonstrates that – is truly a matter of life and death.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the Black and Latino community. Now that we have a vaccine available, we have to make sure that we prioritize distribution to these communities that have suffered the most,” said Dr. Taison D. Bell, assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of Infectious Diseases and International Health and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia. “Sadly, this has not been the case so far. It is absolutely critical that we have accurate information on race and ethnicity for those receiving vaccinations.”
The letters direct the 29 states and the District of Columbia to consider examples of collection efforts from sister states as well as:
Mandating through executive order or emergency rules, that vaccine providers report racial and ethnic demographic data to state health officials;
Making enrollment in the state’s Immunization Information System automatic for all people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, through which they collect and maintain records of all demographic data related to immunizations statewide; and
Collecting racial and ethnic demographic data directly from recipients during registration for vaccination appointments or in written consent forms, rather than relying on healthcare providers to supply the information. This practice may help to ensure that each recipient is at least asked to provide this critical information.
States include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, California, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming and West Virginia.
Read a copy of the letter here.