Botched US efforts to collect demographic data on early COVID-19 vaccine recipients are making it tough to measure equity in early vaccine distribution. Key points:
- Data on race and ethnicity are missing for about half of the first vaccine recipients in the US, according to the latest CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
- The US response has been faulted for disparities in race and ethnicity—from diagnoses to deaths.
Available data for the 13 million people vaccinated Dec. 14 to Jan. 14 show:
- 63% were women
- 55% were 50 years or older
- 60.4% were non-Hispanic white
The available data seems to match the expected demographics of the 2 groups prioritized for first vaccines—health-care workers and long-term care residents.
But: Confident conclusions cannot be drawn with such incomplete data.
What Happened? Sites used varying formats or confusing categorizations to collect data. For example, a Louisiana site said “African” instead of “African American.”
What could help? National standards.
The foggy data picture on race and ethnicity must be corrected, said Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President Biden’s COVID-19 equity task force, yesterday: “We cannot ensure an equitable vaccination program without data to guide us,” The Washington Post reports.