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Shelby County data show racial gaps in coronavirus vaccination

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Early COVID-19 vaccination data in Shelby County show a large racial gap. Much more white residents are vaccinated than black residents. The Shelby County Health Department said the data were not robust enough to show racial disparity.

The data arrives just weeks after vaccination, which begins in Tennessee’s largest county, which accounts for nearly half of the state’s black population.

So far, 5,417 white residents have been vaccinated, twice as many as 2,548 black residents. That is, 51.9% of people receiving the vaccine are white and 24.4% are black.

An additional 23.7%, or 2,475, are listed as other races. Also, according to data from the Shelby County Health Department, 4,929 people did not list their races at all.

These early numbers can change over time and are in counties where 54% of the population is black. Ethnic data identify about 1.6% of vaccinated people as Hispanic. According to the US Census, Shelby County is 7% Hispanic.

Shelby County Health Department data detailing vaccinations by race

The data is up-to-date up to January 7, and includes information on about 15,000 vaccinated people. Much of the vaccine data may come from the Memphis hospital system. The local hospital started vaccination 10 days before the Shelby County Health Department and administered more doses than the Health Department. The Baptist and Methodist hospital systems do not publish racial or ethnic immunization data.

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