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March 8, 2022

Young people of color are not getting COVID vaccine booster shots at the same rate as young white people, USA Today reported.

That alarms federal health authorities. In an attempt to close the gap, the Biden administration plans to turn to churches and community health centers for help, USA Today said.

“We need to do better and we all recognize that with equity in boosters,’’ said Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. “Equity remains an important part of any of our plans.”

The plan to get more young people of color vaccinated with booster doses is part of the newest White House pandemic strategy that Biden discussed in his state of the union address on March 2.

Only 30.4% of Blacks and 37.7% of Hispanics who are 18-49 years old are fully vaccinated and boosted, compared to 49.5% of whites in that age group, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Among people 65 and older, the gaps among demographic groups are much smaller.

Cameron Webb, a senior policy adviser for equity on the White House COVID-19 Response Team, said young people of color are hesitant to get boosters because of complacency, lack of convenience, and concerns about effectiveness and safety, USA Today said.

‘‘I think for younger individuals having seen so much COVID around their peers and in their community, that notion of the risk of hospitalization and of death in the younger age range, it’s not rising to the same level,” Webb said.

Webb noted that many young people were recently infected during the Omicron surge.

“They’re asking that question of, ‘Well, if I just got infected do I need a booster?’’’ Webb said. “And as Dr. Fauci will tell you, as I’ll tell you, the answer is yes.”

The White House plans to seek help from medical providers of color, community groups, and faith-based groups, USA Today said. Those groups have been used throughout the pandemic to promote vaccines among minority groups.

But Black communities still mistrust the federal government on many levels, including vaccines, Melissa Clarke, MD, told USA Today. Clarke is CEO of the BHE Group, a health literacy organization, and former assistant dean in the Howard University College of Medicine.

“It’s still hard for a lot of Black people to grasp that there’s something that could come out of the government that is good, that is not meant to harm them,’’ she said.

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