MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Data shows Blacks and Hispanics in the Mid-South are getting the COVID-19 vaccine at a much lower rate than whites, even though experts said the virus poses a greater threat to those communities.
Early data suggests health officials have a lot of work to do reaching members of the Black and Hispanic communities.
In Mississippi, Blacks make up nearly 40 percent of the population but only 17 percent of the people who have been vaccinated, according to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health.
By comparison, whites account for nearly 60 percent of Mississippi’s population and 69 percent of the vaccinations.
In Tennessee, blacks make up 17 percent of the state’s population, but only 5.6 percent of the total vaccinations, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.
Hispanics make up 5.7 percent of Tennessee’s population, yet account for less than two percent of people who have received the vaccine.
By comparison, white Tennesseans make up 78 percent of the state’s population and 63 percent of the people who have been vaccinated.
Blacks and Hispanics have long had a deep mistrust of the healthcare system. Many have been open about their reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs says he is aware of the challenges reaching these communities.
“It’s going to be a challenge and we’re going to use our Black community leaders to give us ideas and understanding,” said Dobbs.
Recent numbers from the Shelby County Health Department show twice as many white people in Shelby County have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine compared to Blacks and other communities of color.
But the Shelby County Health Department is not calling it a racial disparity, saying it’s still too early.
But they know it could be difficult reaching these communities, which is one of the reasons the health department is opening a vaccination site at Southwest Community College’s Whitehaven location on Finley Road.
The vaccines will be offered from Feb. 5 through Feb. 27.
Officials in Shelby County and in Mississippi say they are looking for other ways to get the vaccine to more people and to build trust with those who may be reluctant to take it.