WASHINGTON - The racial gap regarding COVID-19 vaccinations is closing, according to White House officials.
On Tuesday, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said new data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed 73% of Latinos and 70% of Black Americans have now gotten at least their first shot. That compares to 71% of White Americans.
"The Kaiser data clearly show that our relentless focus on advancing equity and ensuring our response reaches the hardest-hit communities and those most at risk has closed the gaps in racial and ethnic vaccination rates," Zients said during the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s press briefing.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of the Kaiser Family Foundation said back in May, numbers showed only 56% of Black adults and 57% of Hispanic adults were vaccinated compared to 65% of White adults.
Nunez-Smith cited many reasons for the racial gap including challenges to vaccine access, concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, and misinformation.
"It's confirmation we've made important progress in increasing vaccination rates and in decreasing vaccination inequities," she said.
Nunez-Smith believes that passing time wasn’t the only reason why the racial gap closed. She credited employers who offered paid time off for employees to get the vaccine, public transportation and rideshare companies who offered free rides to vaccination sites and community centers, such as barbershops and churches, who hosted vaccination drives.
But health officials say more work still needs to be done as many Americans refuse to get the shot.
"It remains the case that somewhere around one in four adults across communities remain unvaccinated, unprotected against this virus," Nunez-Smith continued.
New U.S. studies released earlier this month show the COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against hospitalizations and death even as the extra-contagious delta variant swept the country.
On Thursday, the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will meet to vote on the final recommendations for mitigating the health inequities caused and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and to help prevent these inequities in the future. The recommendations will be delivered to President Joe Biden.
The FDA recently authorized booster doses for Americans who are 65 and older, younger adults with underlying health conditions and those in jobs that put them at high risk for COVID-19. The ruling represents a drastically scaled back version of the Biden administration’s sweeping plan to give third doses to nearly all American adults to shore up their protection amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
U.S. regulators will decide at a later date on boosters for people who have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. They indicated the Pfizer shots would not be recommended for people who got a different brand of vaccine initially.
The U.S. is dispensing around 760,000 vaccinations per day on average, down from a high of 3.4 million a day in mid-April. About 180 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or 64.9% of those who are eligible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.