As of this week, federal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 78% of the adult population in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. While this achievement 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 continued spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, unvaccinated people remain at increased risk for infection, illness, and death. Though as of October 5, 2021, White people accounted for the largest share (60%) of people who are unvaccinated,1 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. However, the data show that these disparities are narrowing over time, particularly for Hispanic people.

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.

Federal Data on COVID-19 Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity

The CDC reports demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at the national level. As of October 4, 2021, CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for 61% of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two thirds were White (60%), 11% were Black, 17% were Hispanic, 6% were Asian, 1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 5% reported multiple or other race. CDC data also show that recent vaccinations are reaching a larger share of the Black population compared to their share of overall vaccinations and their share of the total population (14% vs. 11% and 12%, respectively), which will narrow their gap in vaccinations at the national level. The share of overall vaccinations that have gone to Hispanic people is the same as their share of total population (both at 17%). The share of recent vaccinations going to Hispanic people is 15%, which represents a decline from earlier periods during which the share of recent vaccinations going to Hispanic people was larger than their share of the total population (Figure 1). While these data provide helpful insights at the national level, to date, CDC is not publicly reporting state-level data on the racial/ethnic composition of people vaccinated.

Figure 1: Race/Ethnicity of People Receiving a COVID-19 Vaccine in the U.S. as of October 4, 2021

State Data on COVID-19 Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity

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 October 4, 2021, 47 states and Washington D.C. were reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity, including 45 states that reported race/ethnicity of people who received at least one dose of the vaccine.2 Figure 2 shows the percent of the total population who have been vaccinated by race/ethnicity in each of the 45 states that report people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by race/ethnicity and the total across 43 of these states. (North Dakota and New Mexico are excluded from the total due to differences their reporting of 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. These data will differ from survey estimates of vaccination rates that are limited to adults.

Overall, across these 43 states, the percent of White people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose (54%) was 1.2 times higher than the rate for Black people (46%) and 1.1 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people (51%) as of October 4, 2021. White people had a higher vaccination rate compared to Hispanic people in most reporting states, except Missouri, Vermont, Tennessee, DC, Nevada, New York, Virginia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Kansas, Texas, and Alabama. White people also had a higher rate than Black people in most reporting states, except Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Washington, Louisiana, and Alabama. The size of these differences varied widely across states, and they have been narrowing over time. The overall vaccination rate across states for Asian people was higher compared to White people (69% vs. 54%), which is consistent with the pattern in most reporting states. However, Asian people had lower vaccination rates than White people in six states (Colorado, Iowa, North Dakota, Utah, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota).

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 45 states that report racial/ethnic data based on people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. These data will differ from other estimates of vaccination rates among adults or the eligible population ages 12 and older.

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 43 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 43 states, the percent of White people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose (53%) was 1.2 times higher than the rate for Black people (45%) and 1.1 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people (49%) as of September 20, 2021. White people had a higher vaccination rate compared to Hispanic people in most reporting states, except Missouri, Vermont, Tennessee, DC, Louisiana, Virginia, Nevada, New York and South Carolina. White people also had a higher rate than Black people in every reporting state, except Oregon, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Washington, and Louisiana. The size of these differences varied widely across states, and they have been narrowing over time. The overall vaccination rate across states for Asian people was higher compared to White people (69% vs. 53%), 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).

Between September 20 and October 4, Black and Hispanic people experienced a slightly larger increase in vaccination rates compared to White and Asian people, narrowing the disparities in vaccination rates (Figure 3). Vaccination rates increased by 1.2 percentage points for both Hispanic people and Black people, from 49.4% to 50.6%, and from 44.5% to 45.8%, respectively. Vaccination rates increased by 0.5 percentage points for Asian people and by 0.6 percentage points for White people over the period (from 68.8% to 69.3%, and from to 53.3% to 53.9%, respectively). The larger increases in rates for Black and Hispanic people continue to narrow the gap in vaccination rates between these groups and White people. Overall, between late April 2021, when eligibility was open to most adults across states, and October 4, 2021 the gap in vaccination rates between White and Black people fell from 14 percentage points (38% vs. 24%) to 8 percentage points (54% vs. 46%) while the difference in White and Hispanic vaccination rates decreased from 13 percentage points (38% vs. 25%) to three percentage points (54% vs. 51%).

Figure 3: Percent of Total Population that Has Received at Least One COVID-19 Vaccine Dose by Race/Ethnicity, March 1 to October 4, 2021

Vaccination rates are higher and gaps for Hispanic people close when analysis is limited to the population ages 12 and older who are currently eligible for the vaccines. Among those ages 12 and older, as of October 4, 2021, 64% of Hispanic people and 61% of White people had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, compared to 55% of Black people. Asian people continued to have the highest vaccination rate at 79%. The narrowing of disparities in vaccination rates among Hispanic people when limiting to the eligible population reflects that a high share of children under age 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine are Hispanic. The gap in vaccination rates between Black and White people persists among the eligible population but is smaller than the gap among the total population.

Discussion

Growing data point to significantly increased risks of COVID-19 illness and death for people who remain unvaccinated. White people account for the largest share of people who remain unvaccinated, but, overall, Black and Hispanic people are less likely than their White counterparts to have received a vaccine, leaving them at increased risk. At the same time, the data show that these disparities are narrowing, particularly for Hispanic people, and survey data, including the September 2021 KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor survey, show that these gaps have closed among adults.

The increasing equity in vaccination rates likely reflects a combination of efforts focused on increasing vaccination rates among people of color through outreach and education and reducing access and logistical barriers to vaccination, increased interest in getting the vaccine due to spread of the Delta variant, and increases in vaccinations among younger adults and adolescents who include higher shares of people of color compared to other adults. Despite this progress, the ongoing disparities in rates highlight the importance of continued efforts to increase vaccination rates and to address gaps in vaccination both geographically and across racial/ethnic groups.

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. The completeness of race/ethnicity data has improved in most states over time as the shares of vaccinations with unknown or missing race have declined. However, some states still have relatively high shares of vaccinations among people classified with “unknown” race/ethnicity and three states still are not reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity. Ongoing inconsistences in racial/ethnic classifications across states as well as separate reporting of data for federally administered vaccinations, including those provided through the Indian Health Service and federal long-term care partnership program, limit the ability to interpret the data. Moreover, although federal and state data are available for vaccinations by race/ethnicity and age separately, only a handful of states report data in a way that allows for analysis of vaccination rates by race/ethnicity within age groups. Having data to understand vaccination patterns by race/ethnicity and age will be particularly important when eligibility expands to children. Overall, comprehensive standardized data across states are vital to monitor and ensure equitable access to and uptake of the vaccine.

Complete data on the distribution of vaccinations by race/ethnicity as well as the percent of the total population that has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose 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.

Endnotes
  1. Based on KFF analysis of vaccinations using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Demographic Characteristics of People Receiving COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States data and total population data using KFF analysis of the 2019 American Community Survey data.

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  2. Two states report race/ethnicity based on total doses administered.

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