Texas has administered nearly seven million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but Black Texans, Asian Texans and other minorities are significantly less vaccinated across the state.
“By the fact that the mask mandate is changing puts us at more risk than the rest of the community,” said Greater Killeen Community Center Medical Director Dr. Don Daniels.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, only 2.3% of Asian Central Texans, 6.7% of Black Central Texans, and nearly 8% of Hispanic Central Texans make up those vaccinated in Bell County compared to 45% of white Central Texans. Nearly 30% of vaccinations are unknown.
“It’s being noticed across the country. In addition, the number of patients who are coming in really sick with COVID, reflecting that many people of color are actually getting sicker,” said Texas A&M University-Central Texas Department of Nursing Director & Chair Amy Mersiovsky.
Local experts say there’s a growing number of factors, including “vaccine hesitancy” and a distrust of the medical community.
“People are hesitant to get a vaccine when they have knowledge of the Tuskegee Syphilis Trial, when they’ve experienced racism in the healthcare system, when they have any type of these institutional discrimination experiences,” said Texas A&M University-Central Texas Assistant Professor of Sociology Dr. Roslyn Fraser Schoen.
Many agree the main problem is access.
“We’re missing the mark on where these vaccine sites need to be located to make it more convenient for those who are under-served in our communities,” explained TaNeika Moultrie, president of the Killeen branch of the NAACP.
Local community leaders say many minorities don’t have reliable internet access or even transportation, which is why vaccination sites need be closer to where they live.
“One of those areas is downtown Killeen off of Rancier, as well as apartment complexes and duplexes. You have a low- to moderate-income families that are living in those areas,” said Moultrie.
The Killeen branch of the NAACP says they plan on working with local hospitals to develop a mobile vaccination clinic. Bell County officials say that also plan on making a mobile vaccination site to help meet the need.