As of this week, 75% of the adult population in the United States have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. While this progress represents a marked achievement in vaccinations that 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, cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising, largely among unvaccinated people. While as of late July 2021, White adults accounted for the largest share (57%) of unvaccinated adults, 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.
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.
The CDC reports demographic characteristics, including race/ethnicity, of people receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at the national level. As of September 8, 2021, CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for 59% of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two thirds were White (60%), 10% 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. However, CDC data also show that recent vaccinations are reaching larger shares of Hispanic, Asian, and Black populations compared to overall vaccinations. Among vaccines administered in the past 14 days, 26% have gone to Hispanic people, 15% to Black people, and 4% to Asian people (Figure 1). These recent patterns suggest a narrowing of racial gaps in vaccinations at the national level, particularly for Hispanic and Black people, who account for a larger share of recent vaccinations compared to their share of the total population (26% vs. 17% and 15% vs. 12%, respectively). While these data provide helpful insights at a national level, to date, CDC is not publicly reporting state-level data on the racial/ethnic composition of people vaccinated.
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 September 7, 2021, 47 states and Washington D.C. were reporting vaccination data by race/ethnicity. This analysis examines how the vaccinations have been distributed by race/ethnicity and the share of the total population vaccinated by race/ethnicity. It also assesses trends in these data since March 1.
Distribution of Vaccinations by Race/Ethnicity
Figure 2 shows the shares of COVID-19 vaccinations, cases, and deaths among Black, Hispanic, Asian, and White people. The data also show the distribution of the total population by these groups as of 2019. Data are not presented for other groups due to data limitations. Together these data show:
Black people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and the total population in more than half of states reporting data. In the remaining reporting states, the share of vaccinations they have received is similar to their shares of cases and the total population. In most reporting states, the share of vaccinations received by Black people is smaller than their share of deaths. For example, in the District of Columbia, Black people have received 44% of vaccinations, while they make up 56% of cases, 71% of deaths, and 46% of the total population.
Reflecting disproportionate levels of infection, Hispanic people have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases in most reporting states. Their share of vaccinations is similar or higher than their shares of deaths in most reporting states. However, in some states it remains lower. For example, in California, 31% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 61% of cases, 47% of deaths, and 40% of the total population in the state.
These current patterns reflect growing shares of vaccinations going to Hispanic and Black people over time. Between March 1 and September 7, the share of vaccinations going to Hispanic people increased in all states reporting data for both periods and increased for Black people in most reporting states. In a few cases, these increases were large. For example, the share of vaccinations going to Black people increased from 26% to 44% in DC and from 25% to 38% in Mississippi. Similarly, the share of vaccinations going to Hispanic people increased by at least 10 percentage points in six states, including Florida (17% to 32%), Nevada (13% to 27%), California (19% to 31%), Texas (23% to 35%), New Jersey (6% to 18%), and New York (9% to 21%). The share of vaccinations going to Asian people also increased in most states reporting data for both periods, while it fell for White people in most reporting states. The share going to White people declined by 10 percentage points or more in 15 states (Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, Maine, Illinois, Colorado, New York, and Indiana).
In nearly all reporting states, the share of vaccinations among Asian people was similar to or higher than their shares of cases, deaths, and total population. For example, in Hawaii, 52% of vaccinations have been received by Asian people, which is higher than their share of the total population (40%) and their shares of cases and deaths (both at 44%).
White people received a higher share of vaccinations compared to their share of cases in most states reporting data. In about half of reporting states they received a similar or higher share of vaccinations compared to their shares of deaths and total population, while in other states it was lower. For example, in Colorado, 76% of vaccinations were received by White people, while they make up 68% of the population. In Tennessee, 65% of vaccinations have been received by White people, which is lower than their share of cases (71%), deaths (78%), and their share of the population (77%).