In a story published in USA Today on September 28th, journalist Nada Hassanein reported on changing rates of COVID-19 vaccination among pregnant Americans, particularly African-Americans. According to a Kaiser Foundation Report, The excellent news is that general vaccination rates across the board are increasing. A Kaiser Foundation report indicates that 7 in 10 American adults have had at least a single dose of a COVID vaccine. Yet, vaccination rates among pregnant women remain low. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 20% of pregnant women report having willingly received a vaccine. When broken down by demographics, the CDC data indicates that vaccination rates among Black women are even lower, with only 13% having received a single dose. In addition, Hassanein reports, “Women giving birth while having COVID-19 had ‘significantly higher rates of ICU admission, intubation, ventilation, and death, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association. In August alone, 21 pregnant people died of COVID-19, according to the CDC.”

Health Disparities and AI

Vaccination rates among pregnant women are not the only health disparity afflicting Black Americans. They also have a considerably higher rate of infant mortality compared to other demographics. CDC data indicates a rate of 10.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births among Black Americans in 2018 (compared to 9.4 for Pacific islanders, 8.2 among indigenous Americans and Alaskans, 4.9 among Hispanics, 4.6 among whites, and 3.6 among Asians). The article in USA Today was quick to remind its readers about the benefits of taking the vaccine, even during pregnancy: “Scientists have said vaccines are safe to be taken at any time while pregnant or breastfeeding for both mother and baby.” So why the disparity?

As we pointed out in our post on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), numerous factors determine the overall health of a particular community. Unfortunately, there are often gaps in the health care system for impoverished Black communities that contribute to higher rates of health problems. Dr. Pam Oliver, a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology interviewed in Hassanein’s reporting, believes that disparities in vaccination rates should serve as a wake-up call for how poorly the healthcare industry has historically interacted with African-American mothers. She also says that the problem is compounded by the proliferation of misinformation on social media platforms, driving an even deeper wedge between the mainstream health sector and Black women. Hassanein summarizes Dr. Oliver’s observations this way: “‚Ķmany women encounter misinformation surrounding the vaccine and pregnancy on social media, leading to doubts. To fight the misinformation, she said clinicians need to patiently engage with women’s questions, validate their emotions and then reassure them with science.”

These gaps in healthcare resource networks are one of the main problems we’re trying to tackle here at C3S. For example, we recently began a Vaccine System of Care (VSOC) in north Florida, bringing together multiple organizations to address the disparities of vaccination rates between African American Florida residents and other groups. Coordinating care using the C3S AI platform, the VSOC will deploy over 35 community health workers (CHWs) who specialize in prenatal care, infant mortality prevention, and health education. C3S will allow these professionals to coordinate care and make easy referrals within the collaborative, building accessible and effective healthcare networks in historically underserved areas. We hope that collaborations like this will go a long way in closing the disparities between demographics, whether they’re between vaccination rates or infant mortality (or both). To learn more about how C3S could help people in your area, use this contact page to schedule a free demo.