Vaccination Continues, But Disparities Emerge in Willingness to be Vaccinated

Summary of Study

Supply of COVID-19 vaccines no longer lags behind demand, but herd immunity remains out of reach. Cases have begun to rise in states with lower rates of vaccination, underscoring the need for continued efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Carefully tailored efforts are essential to reducing vaccine disparities and improving vaccination rates among vulnerable populations.

The Kaiser Family Foundation tracks intentions to vaccinate among various demographic groups. Individuals who report that they will definitely not get a vaccine are largely white (and in many cases reside in rural areas), and those who will wait and see have primarily been black and Hispanic. These individuals prefer to “wait until it has been available for a while to see how it is working for other people” – reflecting a distrust toward the medical profession. Similar attitudes regarding the flu vaccine are also reflected here.

In northeastern Pennsylvania, hesitancy in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties is on par with Wayne County (predominantly rural). Furthermore, estimated hesitancy is lower in Carbon and Wyoming counties (also predominantly rural). Perhaps it is noteworthy that these are the most racially homogeneous counties of the five analyzed. Alternately, the most racially diverse counties are reportedly the most hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

As such, there remain opportunities to better connect with black residents. The history of racism and inequities in healthcare and mistreatment of people of color contribute to current negative perceptions. For example, black patients are likelier than white patients to report feeling that their healthcare providers do not believe them and do not offer appropriate treatment as a result.

Pittsburgh’s Black Equity Coalition offers one example for minimizing racial disparities in health and healthcare – particularly regarding COVID-19. In partnership with organizations such as the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, the coalition has advocated for the public release of relevant data in the forms of a dashboard and an open portal. In In the opposite corner of the state, Lackawanna County’s Kick COVID-19 Community Corps is a grassroots partnership of 20 community agencies. The collaborative shares unified information regarding available vaccines, prioritizing vulnerable groups. Educational materials are available in multiple languages, and a multi-lingual video series includes leaders from diverse groups within the region.

Read the full policy tracker here

Feature Charticle

The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development


  • In the five northeastern counties compared, more than half of adult residents are fully vaccinated (with Lackawanna County in the lead, at 63.9 percent as of June 10).
  • These regional data reflect statewide and national trends – as of June 2021, people in Black and Hispanic communities are receiving fewer vaccines per capita than they are receiving COVID-19 diagnoses (the opposite is true for white people).
  • In Pennsylvania, the rate of white residents receiving at least one vaccine dose is approximately 1.6 times the rate of black people with at least one dose; these rates for the Hispanic and Asian populations are 1.4 and 3.2, respectively.

Read the full policy tracker here