Black Missourians have only received 4% of the COVID vaccines administered so far

Missouri’s low percentage of residents receiving the initial shot caused some lawmakers to call for greater transparency and swifter distribution

By: - January 26, 2021 7:53 pm

A screenshot of Missouri’s COVID-19 Vaccinations dashboard launched Tuesday, January 26, 2021. (Screenshot of dashboard)

Black residents in Missouri have received roughly 4 percent of the total COVID vaccines administered, despite making up 11 percent of the population, according to a new dashboard the state launched Tuesday.

The dashboard sheds light for the first time on detailed demographic data and a county-by-county breakdown of where COVID vaccines have been given to residents. And similar to Missouri’s demographic data on coronavirus cases — it’s incomplete.

The dashboard’s launch follows criticism in recent days after data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Missouri was last in the country when it comes to the percentage of residents who have received an initial dose.

According to Missouri’s dashboard, an estimated 4.5 percent of the state’s residents have received at least their first dose. From Jan. 16 to 22, 105,870 doses had been administered — an average of 15,111 a day.

Only five counties in the entire state had over 5 percent of their residents with the first dose. The county of Cape Girardeau had the largest share of residents who had received an initial dose, at 9.3 percent. 

The state’s largest metro areas had administered the most doses with St. Louis County at 58,380, Jackson County at 31,273, St. Charles County at 19,803, St. Louis City at 18,203, Green County at 17,903 and Boone County at 17,187.

The counties of Reynolds, Mercer, Worth and Ozark had all administered fewer than 100 doses.

In terms of age, the largest number of vaccines have been administered to residents who are between 55 to 64 years old with 68,596 doses as of Sunday.

However, the age group that has the largest share of people vaccinated so far were those 85 and up, with an estimated 11.8 percent of people in that age group receiving a dose among 15,975 doses. However, rates exclude records for which age was unknown, meaning the actual number may be higher.

Demographic data is not displayed by county and the dashboard does not break down how many doses demographic data is unknown for.

According to figures from the state’s immunization database ShowMeVax that were released by the Missouri Hospital Association in its Tuesday newsletter, racial data was missing or unknown for 65,807 doses administered as of Sunday.

With racial data unknown for about 18 percent of doses administered, the ability to understand the scope of vaccinations in Missouri’s communities of color is limited.

Of the data the state has collected, the largest number of vaccines has gone to white residents, with 209,880 doses — nearly 59 percent of all doses administered.

Among other groups, 32,834 doses have gone toward multiracial residents, 14,364 to Black residents, 6,559 to Asian residents, 770 to Native Hawaiian residents or Pacific Islanders and 412 to Native American residents or Alaskan Natives.

In terms of ethnicity, 7,891 doses were given to residents who identified as Hispanic or Latino while 253,348 doses were administered to those who were not Hispanic or Latino.

A graphic detailing COVID-19 vaccine doses by race included in the Missouri Hospital Association’s newsletter on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.

Accurately identifying and reporting data on recipients’ race and ethnicity “is vital to the success of the mass vaccination campaign in Missouri,” MHA’s newsletter read.

Earlier this month, an analysis by Kaiser Health News found that in the first few weeks of the vaccine’s rollout, Black Americans received vaccinations at lower rates nationwide. As of Jan. 14., 1 percent of Black residents in Missouri had been vaccinated, compared with 2 percent of the state’s white residents, Kaiser Health News reported.

Across the country, Black, Latino and Native American residents are nearly three times more likely than white Americans to die from the novel coronavirus. 

Missouri prioritizes racial and ethnic minorities in Phase 2 of its eligibility tiers — the last phase before the vaccine becomes available to the wider public.

The low numbers of vaccinations among Missouri’s minority residents, “raises serious questions on vaccine acceptance and trust-building in Black and Brown communities that have been the historical recipients of devastating medical mistreatment, including the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, and also highlights the critical need to ensure adequate distribution to vulnerable citizens,” MHA’s newsletter read.

Black Missourians were the most skeptical that a vaccine would be distributed fairly, according to an MHA poll earlier this month, and the low figures underscore the challenge Missouri faces in communicating the safety and effectiveness of a COVID vaccine to hesitant residents.

According to the CDC, Missouri has been distributed 665,300 doses from the federal government and administered 340,273 doses as of Tuesday — about 51 percent of its doses.

However, Missouri’s own dashboard pins the total number of doses administered at 356,310.

The CDC’s data notes that federal figures may differ because there may be a delay between when a vaccination record appears in a state system and when it’s received by the CDC. 

In a news release announcing the dashboard’s launch, Gov. Mike Parson said he participated in a call Tuesday with the National Governors Association, White House officials and other federal partners, and that other governors “expressed concern that vaccination data from the CDC is being misrepresented and does not fully reflect the situations we are seeing at the state level.”

Missouri’s low percentage of residents who had received the initial shot caused some lawmakers to call for greater transparency and a swifter distribution.

“We can all agree this is not acceptable, and I urge you to provide swift action to address these shortcomings,” Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican from Parkville, wrote in a letter Tuesday to Randall Williams, the director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services.

Rep. LaDonna Appelbaum, a Democrat from St. Louis, said she intends to investigate the state’s early deployment of vaccines.

“I understand the difficult logistics in such a massive undertaking, but other states obviously have not had the same problems as Missouri in dealing with these issues,” Appelbaum said in a statement Tuesday. “My constituents and all Missourians deserve to know why their state has dropped the ball on protecting them from COVID, time and time again.”

Williams is scheduled to testify on the state’s vaccine rollout before the House Committee on Health and Mental Health Policy Wednesday.

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Tessa Weinberg
Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covers education, health care and the legislature. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She most recently covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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