January 27, 2023

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals saw the disproportionate impact of the virus on people of color.

Minnesotan people of color were hospitalized more often and also died more often than white Minnesota residents.


“We have seen a large number of people of color in our intensive care units who have had a harder time with COVID,” said Nneka Söderström, Chief Health Officer at Hennepin Healthcare.

Actually, new research finds that despite higher vaccination rates during the pandemic’s delta and omicron waves, Minnesotans of color under the age of 65 were more likely to die from the virus than white Minnesotans of the same age group. The findings highlight the underlying inequalities affecting Minnesota’s people of color.

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Health response

Blacks and Hispanics from Minnesota have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 in numbers that exceed their share of the population, according to the University of Minnesota. to study found using data from the first months of the pandemic.


From April 30 to June 24, 2020, blacks accounted for 25% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Minnesota but 7% of the state’s population, while Hispanics accounted for 16% of hospitalizations but 6% of the population, according to the study. .

Hospitals saw an influx of people of color. So when vaccines eventually came out, health system leaders like Söderstrom knew which communities needed them.

“When we held a press conference trying to promote a vaccine, I was very clear that at that time it was not old people who were dying in our intensive care units, but young people who thought they were healthy got COVID and ended up in our units. and, and they were people of color,” Cederstrom said. “That was our reality.”


Hennepin Healthcare has partnered with community organizations such as Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio to connect with Hispanic communities and Black churches by delivering vaccines and personnel to those locations. In the three months from February to May 2021, they reached more than 9,000 people.

Zeke McKinney, a physician at HealthPartners, recognized the need during the first summer of the pandemic when he walked into Wilson’s Image, a North Minneapolis barbershop, and noticed that he was the only person wearing a mask.

According to him, McKinney was aware of racial differences through his work as a doctor and was aware that a large part of the black population was hesitant to participate in clinical research due to medical distrust that dates back to the Tuskegee syphilis study. From 1932 to 1972, the study aimed to “observe the natural course of untreated syphilis” among the black population, but the subjects were unaware of the purpose of the study and were instead told they were being treated for bad blood despite not receiving no treatment. treatment in general.


McKinney said he almost turned around when he was the only person in the barbershop wearing a mask. “But then I thought to myself, ‘If I really want to try to get people involved, talk about how serious COVID is and why we need to do something to protect ourselves, I have to stay here and just do it,'” McKinney said. .

And so he did. He says he got his hair cut there all the time, and eventually, when vaccines became available, his barber asked him where he could get the shot.

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With some funding from MDH, McKinney and the barbershop began hosting vaccination clinics. His goal was to have the clinic permanently in-store so that if people change their mind about getting vaccinated, they know where to go back, he said.

McKinney said that much of his success was due to the fact that the clinic was in a black space.

“For people of color, even for me, as a black man and a doctor, going to the doctor is not my favorite thing to do. So if this is bad for me, how bad is it for someone who is not so educated with this privilege and that is not connected to the system,” he said. “This clinic was designed to be located in a safe and convenient location, in a barbershop that is generally a safe place in the black community.”

High vaccination rate but higher mortality

All of these vaccine coverage efforts helped: The study authors found that blacks, Hispanics, and Asians under age 65 were more highly vaccinated than white Minnesotans of the same age for most of the delta spike and during omicron waves. .

But while COVID-19 vaccines have been effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths overall, they have not been able to correct underlying health disparities that have made communities of color more vulnerable to COVID-19: Minnesotans of color, for example, are more likely to get diabetes, asthma, and disease. hearts are all comorbidities of COVID-19 due to factors such as poverty and access to health care.

“We vaccinated as much as we could to try and rein it in. Despite the fact that the number of vaccines was large, we still know that inequality, systemic racism and environmental racism – the problems that underlie healthcare in general – are the reason why people are still dying, ”Sederstrom said.

Despite higher vaccination rates, the death rate for people of color under the age of 65 was higher than for white people of the same age group in Minnesota.

The findings also suggest that some of the messages at the start of the pandemic that focused on the older population as the most vulnerable did not capture the breadth of who was most at risk.

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“If you simply assumed that this was a vaccine only for the elderly to protect them, then that was a false assumption,” said Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, a researcher at the University of Minnesota and one of the study’s authors. “In this article, we show that people of color between the ages of 55 and 64 are at greater risk of dying from COVID than white people 10 years older. It’s a really big difference,” she said.

There are systemic factors behind this age difference.

“It shows us what we already know to be true. Blacks, browns, and indigenous people are much more at risk of ill health due to social determinants of health such as lack of access to health care, lack of access to health insurance, financial precariousness, precarious housing, lack of access to food, access to a safe environment ” McKinney said.

The researchers examined death certificate data, which includes information such as race, ethnicity, age, gender, and place of death. However, they did not have access to previous health problems or comorbidities, Wrigley-Field said.

Further research could go deeper into the causes of racial differences, she said, but defining them was not the goal of this study.

Service providers hope this study will open people’s eyes to racism and how it affects people’s lives.

“I hope this will help people better understand how racism affects healthcare. I think we like to come up with a different answer to the “why” question. We don’t like to accept the reality of racism because it seems like it’s too big a problem to deal with. And we just don’t want, as a society, to face the reality that we haven’t overcome this big huge vice in our history,” Cederstrom said. “There will always be data to back this up. So this is just another example of data highlighting that we still have a long way to go, but if we keep pretending that racism doesn’t exist, we will continue to get the same results.”

#Study #Blacks #Hispanics #Asians #Minnesota #age #vaccinated #COVID19 #die

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