Press Room

State Health Leaders: We Are Committed to Ensuring Equitable Access to the COVID-19 Vaccine

ARLINGTON, VA (Feb. 2, 2021)— The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and its members are committed to ensuring equitable access of the COVID-19 vaccine and collecting accurate demographic data to ensure detection and response to any potential disparities in vaccine administration. CDC’s newly released report highlights demographic characteristics of persons vaccinated during the first month of the COVID-19 vaccination program, and the data is concerning.

Michael Fraser, CEO of ASTHO, issued the following statement reflecting on the first month of COVID-19 vaccination program data.

“The data on early vaccine recipients shows us that we must do more to ensure we are obtaining accurate demographic data on race and ethnicity among those being vaccinated. CDC’s data show age and gender were reported almost universally while race and ethnicity were missing in almost half of the records submitted. To better understand, target, and ultimately eliminate health disparities, we must take the necessary steps to make this data collection the norm. Historically, data on race and ethnicity have been misused to deny or exclude people from healthcare services and we still have a long way to go to address differences in healthcare outcomes by race and ethnicity in our country. Committing to comprehensively and accurately collecting these data and analyzing them to address disparities is extremely important.

“Speed and efficiency but also ensuring equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine is also top priority for our nation’s health departments. Vaccine hesitancy is a concerning issue. Participation among Black healthcare personnel was low in relation to their representation in the workforce. This indicates more work is needed to address how healthcare and public health leaders address vaccine hesitancy and build trust in the vaccine.

“We must balance the emphasis on expedient vaccine delivery with a commitment to ensure that communities that have suffered most in this pandemic have priority access to vaccines. State and local health departments had scarce resources to fund the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out early on. Now, the new federal funding awarded in January will support state efforts to create better data systems that support full tracking of vaccination data by race and ethnicity. This new funding will also allow state and local health departments to implement communications campaigns and engage community organizations to promote vaccine distribution and vaccination in minority communities.”

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.