This CommuniVax Coalition report represents a waypoint in the COVID-19 pandemic: an opportunity to pause to mark the distance traveled, alter the course if necessary, and set out on the next part of the journey. It describes progress made toward greater equity in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and proposes steps to advance even further. CommuniVax is a national rapid research coalition of social scientists, public health experts, healthcare providers, and community advocates, and a part of the larger community of practice that has observed and participated in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout through an equity lens.
Earlier in the year, it was estimated that COVID-19 vaccines had averted nearly 140,000 deaths and between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion in associated costs in the United States. Initially, however, these enormous, lifesaving benefits were not equitably distributed to communities of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). Despite early setbacks, more recent progress has been made in reversing inequities in COVID-19 vaccine coverage. In mid- September, similar shares of Hispanic/Latino (73%), African American/Black (70%), and White (71%) adults reported having received at least 1 dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
However, while vaccine coverage is similar across racial/ethnic groups nationally, the same is not true at state and local levels. A better understanding of factors that have facilitated higher vaccine coverage within BIPOC communities in certain parts of the country can aid states and local jurisdictions still struggling with vaccination equity and/or unequal health outcomes. Such an inquiry can also help inform the development of outreach and engagement approaches for White communities that currently account for the largest proportion of unvaccinated individuals in the country.
To contribute to this effort, in early October 2021, CommuniVax undertook an assessment of its work, inviting other similarly engaged groups to reflect on the coalition’s efforts and, more generally, on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Using a combination of listening sessions and a survey, we gathered feedback from an array of advocates, organizers, practitioners, and leaders representing state and local government, the public health sector, academia, professional associations, community-based organizations (CBOs), faith-based organizations (FBOs) and coalitions across the country to document successes, failures, and lessons learned that could be used to shape future efforts of vaccine promotion and health equity strengthening.
From this assessment, we identified early equity “wins” in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and developed recommendations on how to ensure ongoing advances in health equity, now and into the future.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security