Vaccination Rates Closely Match Population Demographics

Missing Work Still Most Commonly Cited Reason for Vaccine Hesitancy

By Theresa Ho

When the COVID-19 vaccines first became available to the public, access was limited and inequitable. In late January 2021, Colorado Public Radio reported that Black Coloradans made up less than 2% of the people vaccinated in Colorado while Latinx Coloradans made up only 4% of the state’s vaccinated.

Current data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) indicates that rural counties tended to have smaller vaccination rates than urban areas. According to CDPHE’s data, San Juan, San Miguel, Mineral, Summit, Eagle, and Broomfield counties had the highest vaccination rates by county, ranging from 83% to 96% of their populations fully immunized. Counties closer to the state’s borders such as Pueblo and Jackson counties tended to have lower vaccination rates, ranging from 34% to 59% of their populations fully immunized.

The CDC has warned that unvaccinated people have an increased risk of infection, illness and death due to the more transmissible delta variant. Current CDPHE data indicates that 77% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

The Latinx population makes up a larger proportion of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 than other communities of color. Of the patients who are unvaccinated, around 56% of those patients are white, and about 27% of those patients are Latinx. The other racial demographics for hospitalized patients are smaller, roughly equivalent to the state’s population demographics. Black individuals make up almost 6%, Asians make up 2.4%, and American Indians and Alaskan Natives make up 1.1% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

While there are still vaccination disparities between communities of color and their white counterparts, the CDPHE data suggests that the differences in vaccination rates are beginning to narrow – especially for the Latinx and Black communities. Current analysis indicates that Latinx Coloradans make up 20% of the state’s population but only about 12% of the state’s vaccinated population. The Black community makes up almost 4 % of Colorado’s population as well as about 3.3% of the state’s vaccinated population. Asian Coloradans are 3.4% of the state’s total population and almost 3% of people immunized in the state. Finally, American Indians and Alaskan Natives make up around 0.7% of Colorado’s population and also 0.6% of the state’s immunized population.

An article written by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) theorized that the vaccination gap in Colorado between white Coloradans and Latinx Coloradans was caused by inadequate access to healthcare. According to a report from the foundation, nearly 16% – more than double the rate for white Coloradans – of Latinx Coloradans are uninsured. Health organizations and community groups providing the vaccine frequently emphasize that the vaccine is free, widely available in the United States, and does not require insurance.

The KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor is an ongoing research project tracking the public’s attitudes and experiences with COVID-19 vaccinations. Using a combination of surveys and qualitative research, this project tracks the dynamic nature of public opinion as vaccine development and distribution unfold, including vaccine confidence and hesitancy, trusted messengers and messages, as well as the public’s experiences with vaccination.

The most recent data from the monitor was collected in April, June and September of this year. According to the monitor, more than seven in 10 U.S. adults now report being at least partially vaccinated, with the surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to the Delta variant being the main motivator for the recently vaccinated. Factors like full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and an increase in vaccine mandates also played a small role in moving people to get vaccinated.

Data from the monitor indicated that people of color were more likely to list concerns about COVID-19 vaccination barriers to access and negative health effects. Of those surveyed, 58% of Hispanic adults under age 50 were concerned that the vaccine may negatively impact their future fertility. Meanwhile, 55 percent of unvaccinated Black adults and almost 64 percent of Hispanic adults were concerned about having to miss work due to vaccine side effects. Larger shares of Black and Hispanic adults compared to white adults were also concerned about not being able to get the vaccine from a trustworthy place, having to pay to get vaccinated, and far distances to travel to a vaccine site.

As of October 16, almost 80 percent of eligible Coloradans have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and around 72 percent of eligible Coloradans are fully immunized. With the federal government, State of Colorado, and City of Denver having recently issued mandatory vaccine policies for certain industries, vaccine rates are expected to continue increasing.