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The Philadelphia Inquirer found a racial disparity in COVID-19 vaccination rates among young people in Philadelphia.

Credit: Chase Sutton

A racial disparity in vaccination rates among young people in Philadelphia is provoking concern from some of the city’s top health officials.

Only 15% of Philadelphia’s Black residents and 23% of Philadelphia’s Hispanic residents between the ages of 20 and 44 have received at least one vaccine dose, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. That number jumps to 38% for white residents and 44% for Asian residents in the same age bracket, the Inquirer reported.

Smaller disparities exist among people of other age groups, the Inquirer reported. 48% of Black residents age 75 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 52% of white residents, 54% of Hispanic residents, and 58% of Asian residents in the same age bracket.

“I’m not happy with the gap we are seeing in uptake of vaccine by race,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley told the Inquirer.

Farley told the Inquirer that he was unsure of the cause for the wider disparity among younger people.

The opening of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Center City Vaccination Center has exacerbated this disparity, the Inquirer reported. Within two weeks of the vaccination center’s opening in March, the gap in vaccinations between white and Black Philadelphia residents almost doubled.

Data of the widening racial gap comes after reports that some Penn and Drexel University students received vaccines from the FEMA site while ineligible under Philadelphia vaccine distribution guidelines.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health expanded the guidelines on April 16 to include all Philadelphia residents age 16 and older.

Racial disparities in vaccine access have persisted throughout Philadelphia’s vaccine administration process. At the end of March, almost twice as many white residents had received at least one vaccine dose as Black residents, despite the fact that that Black residents make up 44% of Philadelphia’s population.

The rate of vaccine registration for Philadelphia residents in majority-white areas has also been consistently higher than the rate of registration for residents in majority-Black or majority-Latinx areas.