The pandemic has taken an enormous toll on everyone, and especially older, Black, Hispanic and Indigenous Americans. Over 500,000 people have died in the U.S. due to COVID. Americans 50 and older represent nearly 95 percent of those deaths. About 35 percent have been residents and staff in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities (though these residents are less than 1 percent of the American population). And Black and Hispanic nursing home residents have died at three times the rate of other residents, making up a substantial number of these deaths.
Yet, the initial vaccine outreach and distribution have not reflected equity as a priority. Available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that only 6.5 percent of the limited supplies of vaccines so far have gone to Blacks. And nearly half of vaccination records are missing race and ethnicity data, which further hampers abilities to address disparities that may widen as demand grows.
This is a national disgrace. But we believe that our nation can do better through information, advocacy and outreach. AARP is committed to providing trusted information about vaccines and advocating nationwide for officials to improve information and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines now.
As part of this effort, we have joined with five of the nation’s largest nongovernmental, nonprofit membership organizations — which, combined, reach more than 60 million Americans — to launch a COVID vaccine equity and education initiative. The effort includes the American Diabetes Association, the American Psychological Association, the International City/County Management Association, the National League of Cities and the YMCA. It aims to ensure that accurate and transparent information about the COVID-19 vaccine is available to Black Americans to help them make informed personal decisions about vaccination.