Medical groups urge racial data collection efforts for COVID-19 vaccinations

The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Pharmacists Association have raised concerns about limited race and ethnicity data connected with vaccine administration.
By Kat Jercich
03:37 PM
A person gets vaccinated by another person, both in masks

The American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Pharmacists Association released an open letter on Tuesday urging fellow medical professionals to ramp up efforts to collect race and ethnicity information when administering COVID-19 vaccinations.  

"This information will allow our nation to better understand whether we are providing access to vaccines to vulnerable populations and inform efforts to improve vaccine confidence," wrote the groups in the letter.  

WHY IT MATTERS  

Concerns around equity in access have loomed over the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with limited data showing that Black and Latino Americans appear least likely to have been vaccinated so far. This is of particular concern, given the outsized impact that the novel coronavirus crisis has already had on members of these communities, as well as on Native people.  

The medical groups note that race and ethnicity data can play important roles in pinpointing this inequity and creating solutions to address it.  

"Race and ethnicity data provides critical information to clinicians, healthcare organizations, public health agencies and policymakers, allowing them to equitably allocate resources across all communities, evaluate health outcomes and improve quality of care and delivery of public health services," they wrote.  

However, they point out that data from the first month of the rollout indicates that almost half of the vaccination records provided to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are missing race and ethnicity information.   

"While there are some barriers and challenges to collecting race and ethnicity data, healthcare professionals are critical in asking for the data due to the trust patients have in our work," they wrote. 

"We encourage clinicians to share with patients in a transparent and culturally sensitive manner why collecting race and ethnicity information can help improve the health of their families and communities. These actions reinforce our commitment to high-quality equitable care," the groups added.  

The letter spotlights the history of systemic racism in the healthcare system, resulting in unfair and disproportionate impacts on people of color.   

"Collecting and analyzing race and ethnicity data can help to ensure accountability to affected communities and to our equity values, strategies, and goals," wrote the groups.  

THE LARGER TREND  

The letter follows remarks from past AMA President Dr. Patrice A. Harris last month about the health disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.   

"That is not a genetic issue ... as to the reason that Black and brown people, indigenous people are dying more, hospitalized more," she said. "It's the racism, it's not the race."  

Although data collection is certainly an important part of addressing this inequity, experts have also pointed out that technology alone will not solve inequity.  

"We haven't come to terms and addressed the problems, the inefficiencies, the downright non-equitable and uncompassionate problems of the past," said former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in an interview with Healthcare IT News in February. "So what are we building?"  

ON THE RECORD  

"As organizations deeply committed to health equity, your efforts to collect race and ethnicity data are integral to ensuring equitable distribution and access to the COVID-19 vaccine and improving the health of our nation. Thank you for being our partners in the battle against COVID-19 and for your selfless dedication to your patients and community," read the letter.

Focus on Health Equity

In our ongoing coverage, we report on the challenges, opportunities and success stories as work continues to build a healthcare system that works for everyone.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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John Fowler deputy information security officer Henry Ford Health System

John Fowler, deputy information security officer at Henry Ford Health System 
(Credit: Henry Ford Health System)

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