Democratic lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to release data on the race and ethnicity of people who have received a COVID-19 vaccine to ensure equitable distribution. 

In a letter to the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, 10 senators wrote that it is “critical” that federal databases track “robust demographic information to ensure at-risk communities are being vaccinated appropriately.”

“Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet, they are being vaccinated at significantly lower rates,” wrote the senators, including Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). 

The lawmakers noted that data on vaccination by race and ethnicity would help health officials ensure that vaccines are being distributed equitably and to work to overcome barriers to access. 

The CDC reports that so far, over 47 million people in the U.S. have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

While the agency released a report in early February on race and ethnicity in the first month of vaccinations, it is not publicly reporting such demographics on an ongoing basis, even as the rate of vaccination has sped up and eligibility has expanded in recent weeks. 

In the CDC’s February report, looking at the first 12 million people vaccinated — mainly health workers and long-term care residents — only half reported their race or ethnicity, and disparities were evident: Only 11.5% of those vaccinated were Latinx (the U.S. is 19% Latinx) and 5.4% were Black (the U.S. is 13% Black). 

Meanwhile, Black and Latinx people across the nation have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. They are three times as likely to be hospitalized as whites, and twice as likely to die

The White House and CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Lorraine Harvey, an in-home care worker, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Rudolfo Garcia

Mario Tama via Getty Images

Lorraine Harvey, an in-home care worker, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Rudolfo Garcia in South Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2021 in Los Angeles. 

Some states have been tracking their vaccinations by race and ethnicity, and initial data has been alarming. California, for instance, which recently began publicly reporting these demographics, says that only 3% of people who have received vaccines in the state are Black (Black people make up 7% of the state population) and only 17% are Latinx (Latinx people make up 39% of California residents). 

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden acknowledged in a roundtable with Black essential workers that due to systemic racism in health care, some communities have been more hesitant to get the vaccine.

In their letter on Friday, the lawmakers noted that vaccine data by race and ethnicity would help public officials not only with equitable distribution but also with identifying barriers to access and determining where there might be vaccine hesitancy, in order to work to address that. 

Early last year, as the coronavirus was spreading, the CDC only began releasing data on the race and ethnicity of people the virus had infected or killed after a similar push by Democratic lawmakers.

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