WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Almost two months in to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, states have expanded eligibility for the shots from frontline workers to more of the public.
However, the White House and Congress are concerned minority populations are still being overlooked.
“I’m worried about how behind we are,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, said during a briefing this week. “We cannot ensure an equitable vaccination program without the data to guide us.”
Nunez-Smith reports the federal government is still missing race and ethnicity data for nearly half of the country’s vaccinations.
“They don’t just hurt our statistics,” she said. “They hurt the communities that are at the highest risk and have been the hardest hit.”
Nunez-Smith said gaps in federal coordination, state rollouts, and emphasis on equity contribute to the data problem.
“We can’t get out of this crisis unless we as a country realize we’re all in this together,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ.
Booker is working with the administration to expand minority access to vaccinations.
“They’re committed to doing real things to meet it,” he said.
The White House efforts include setting up new community vaccination centers nationwide.
“We are working with state and local health departments to meet the communities they serve where they are in places they know with people they trust,” said Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
Zients said federal employees will help staff sites from stadiums to mobile units to parking lots.
“In all of this work, we’re advancing equity,” he said.
This comes as recent polls show some groups are less willing to get the shot if they don’t know someone who has already received it.