Majority Who Received First COVID Vaccine Dose at Community Health Centers Were People of Color
Early data suggest significant racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations, with higher vaccination rates among White people compared to Hispanic and Black people as of early March, based on available state-reported data. The Biden administration has identified equity as a key priority in its national COVID-19 response strategy. One action the administration is pursuing to advance equity in vaccinations is to increase distribution through community health centers.
Community health centers are a national network of safety net primary care providers and are a primary source of care for many low-income populations and people of color. This analysis examines the extent to which early vaccination efforts through community health centers are reaching people of color using data from the federal government’s weekly Health Center COVID-19 Survey. We include data from the survey weeks of January 8 through February 26, 2021, largely before the start of the federal health center COVID-19 vaccination program.
Just over half (54%) of people who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from health centers were people of color, including 26% who were Hispanic and 12% who were Black. These shares are higher than the shares of nationwide vaccinations; show that 9% of people receiving one more dose of vaccine as of March 7, 2021 were Hispanic and 7% were Black. The shares of vaccinations received by people of color at community health centers increased in more recent weeks compared to vaccinations in January 2021.
The shares of people receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at health centers who were Black, Hispanic, and Asian generally matched or exceeded their shares of the total population. However, their shares of vaccinations were similar or slightly lower than their shares of the overall health center patient population. Patterns of health center vaccinations by race/ethnicity compared to their population distributions varied widely by state.
While vaccinations at health centers represent a relatively small share of total vaccinations administered nationally to date, further ramping up health centers’ involvement in vaccination efforts at the federal, state, and local levels will likely be a meaningful step in reaching people of color and advancing equity on a larger scale.