Vaccination rates among African Americans across the state in stark contrast to national average

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 10:41 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s African American population has the second highest vaccination rate across the state compared to other races and ethnicities.

That’s strikingly different than demographic trends nationally, which show the country’s Black population has the lowest percentage of people fully vaccinated by more than 6%.

Mississippi Department of Health data shows 43% of the state’s Black population is fully protected against COVID-19, which is 10% higher than the national rate. The only race or ethnicity in the state that’s higher is Asian.

Dr. Obie McNair with Central Mississippi Health Services said this is partially due to the number of African Americans in leadership positions across the state who’ve encouraged constituents to get the shot.

“From Congressman Benny Thompson on down to local political leaders,” Dr. McNair said. “Even our mayor continued the mask mandate even when it wasn’t popular.”

Dr. McNair feels that politics play a role in the statistics as well.

“Many African Americans were active in the civil rights movement and happened to be Democrats,” Dr. McNair said. “The Biden administration has done an excellent job rolling out the vaccine, and they accepted it because they felt it was the right thing to do.”

He also credits the Trump administration for producing a vaccine so quickly under “Operation Warp Speed.”

Since both administrations played a role in distributing the vaccine, Dr. McNair said he hopes people will become more unified in doing their part to end the pandemic.

“It shouldn’t be an issue of Democrat or Republican, but a ‘people issue,”’ he said. “We need to be concerned about getting people vaccinated and preventing deaths and morbidity.”

That said, Dr. McNair said the state still isn’t at the point that it should be.

“Mississippi still is one of the lowest vaccinated states in the United States, so we got work to do,” he said.

Dr. McNair said another reason for these demographic trends has to do with the number of churches and community health centers who’ve actively pushed the vaccine, especially in Jackson.

He said people are more likely to get the shot from somewhere they know and trust.

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