Black and Brown populations should be ‘prioritized’ for Covid-19 vaccines, national expert tells Charlotte business group

Low vaccination rates in minority communities could lead to a widening death toll relative to White populations.

One of the nation’s leading experts on the spread of viral infections said he’s concerned that Black and Brown people aren’t being “prioritized” for Covid-19 vaccinations.

During a remote presentation to members of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance on Wednesday, Dr. Barney Graham of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Black and Brown populations will be even more vulnerable to death and hospitalization if their vaccination rates are not high.

Black and Latino populations currently are three times more likely to die or be hospitalized if they are infected by the novel coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, he said. But without a strong vaccination program targeting those groups, he said, the death and hospitalization rate for those populations could climb to six times the rate of White residents similarly infected.

In the next three to five years, he said, most Americans will be immune to Covid-19 — either through vaccinations or by contracting the virus. Groups with low vaccination rates, he said, will see higher death rates before they develop widespread immunity.

Worldwide, Covid-19 has killed more than 2.2 million people, with the United States accounting for more than 454,000 of that total.

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The Washington Post reported Thursday that more than 28.2 million people had gotten at least one dose of a vaccination. In North Carolina, state health officials report that, as of Thursday, at least 868,521 people had gotten an initial dose. About 12% of the North Carolina total identified as Black.

In Charlotte, Atrium Health has partnered with churches in Black and Brown neighborhoods to set up mobile and drive-thru vaccination locations.

Watch Graham’s presentation on YouTube. His discussion of racial disparities starts at 18:10.

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