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States Respond to COVID-19: Addressing Vaccine Disparities

The COVID-19 public health emergency has illustrated stark disparities in health care, specifically for minority populations and people of color. Just as minority populations have suffered higher rates of COVID-19, preliminary data also show that racial disparities exist in vaccine administration.

In addition to the Biden administration’s emphasis on equity in vaccine distribution, states also have implemented policies to do the same.

Properly Collecting Data

To ensure the most equitable allocation of vaccines, sufficient data is needed. So far, 26 states and Washington, D.C., publicly report varying data on race and ethnicity for individuals who have received the vaccination. However, states differ in their approaches:

  • Florida and Pennsylvania report the total number of people vaccinated by race and ethnicity;
  • North Dakota reports the percent of individuals from each race and ethnicity that have been vaccinated; and
  • Indiana and North Carolina report the total number of doses that have been administered to individuals by race and ethnicity.

Reducing Disparities for Vaccines

States also have taken different approaches to address disparities in their vaccine administration processes. For example:

  • Rhode Island is making vaccines available in high-risk communities by using hospitalization, death, and case data to target vaccines by geography; and
  • Tennessee is expanding vaccination efforts in rural and underserved communities.

Improving Communication on Vaccines to Reduce Hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy is prevalent, especially in communities of color. There are several ways states have worked to improve trust in health care, especially for vaccinations:

  • some states, including West Virginia and Tennessee, are working with church groups and religious affiliations to help share positive information about vaccines; and
  • other states are creating vaccine campaigns in different languages, such as Spanish, to reach a wider audience.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.

About the Author

Abigail Painchaud is a policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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