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In-depth: Why doctors believe the racial disparity in COVID-related deaths is smaller now than ever before

Some epidemiologists credit the rapid increase in vaccination rates among people of color for the closing disparity rate
racial disparity in Covid-related deaths Loretta Jackson WFTS ANTHONY.png
Posted at 5:23 AM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 21:53:15-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Local epidemiologists have said the racial disparity in COVID-related deaths is smaller now than ever before.

“I was experiencing what I didn’t know at that time was symptoms,” said Loretta Jackson, who thought she just had a common cold. “My daughter said, ‘Mom, go get tested!’ and I went and had the COVID test. It came back positive and I came home and isolated myself.”

racial disparity in Covid-related deaths Loretta Jackson WFTS ANTHONY.png

Thankfully, she overcame the virus and she is thriving, but during the height of the pandemic, Blacks and Latinos were dying at a per capita rate of nearly twice the rate of Whites. Now that the pandemic has waned, a survey by the CDC found that mortality rates for Black people and Latinos have fallen and the disparity between the races is marginal.

Some epidemiologists credit the rapid increase in vaccination rates among people of color.

“So, the distance between the number of people that were vaccinated or not vaccinated in African American communities and that in our Caucasian counterparts has significantly narrowed during the past year,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed with USF Health.

He also credits the work of organizations such as We Care and ReachUp, Inc. for the increase in local vaccination rates among people of color.

During the pandemic, those organizations traveled around the Tampa Bay area providing education and access to health care to underserved communities.

“We had already known that we had a significant impact on having a much lower death rate, a much higher vaccination rate here in the Tampa Bay area, per capita, than many other communities all across the entire state of Florida,” said Dr. Sneed.

It is no secret that there was a lot of vaccine hesitancy among the Black community, largely due to a long and complicated history with the medical community, but Black church leaders played an instrumental role in getting people pertinent, lifesaving information about COVID and the vaccine.

“The combination of good preaching, good teaching and personal example, I think was the key to that success,” said Rev. Dr. Glenn B. Dames, Jr., pastor of Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Tampa.

He is one of the many Black church leaders in the Tampa Bay area to preach about the importance of getting vaccinated, not just for yourself, but for your family.

racial disparity in Covid-related deaths Rev. Dr Glenn B Dames Jr  WFTS ANTHONY.png

“You know you had a lot of young folks who – especially people of color – who were like, ‘I’m not getting that. I don’t know what they put in that medicine. I’m not going to do that.’ And grandmother and grandfather said, ‘OK. That’s your choice. It’s also our choice to not allow you around us and so you can’t come around here.’ Then that prompted them to say, ‘I don’t want to live my life without having my grandparents who have been a vital part of my upbringing and my success,” said Pastor Dames, Jr.

The Allen Temple Church even served as a mobile vaccination site for people in the community.

“And people began to become familiar with the church because this is where they came to get their vaccination,” said Pastor Dames, Jr.

With the new omicron subvariant BA.5 being the most dominant strain spreading throughout the country, Jackson said she has already taken a booster shot and continues to be cautious.

“A couple of months ago, I went to my college reunion and we were all masked up. When I come to church, I wear my mask. When I go down to the grocery store,” said Jackson.

If you are interested in getting vaccinated or receiving a booster at a location near your, visit www.vaccines.gov/search.