COVID-19 inequities in racial and ethnic minority groups have been previously studied and confirmed in the United States. Asian Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, and Indigenous Americans/Alaska Natives are at an increased risk of contracting and dying from severe COVID-19. Structural racism may be at play when identifying the source of these disparities.
A retrospective cohort study published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities examined whether disparities in severe COVID-19 may occur due to an increased risk of infection or progression of the disease. The study also investigated whether disparities were established in a defined adult population of the United States with health insurance.
Data were gathered from three regions in the United States with adults that were insured or receiving care as part of the Kaiser Permanente health system. Self-reported race and ethnicity were gathered from electronic health records. COVID-19 infections were assessed through data such as hospital admissions and positive PCR or NAA tests, while disease severity was evaluated by mortality rates and the use of invasive mechanical ventilation.
Ultimately, it was found that differences in the risk of severe COVID-19 were not limited to documented COVID-19 infection according to self-reported race or ethnicity. The researchers suggest that disease severity is then attributed to an increased risk of infection.
After adjusting for all covariates, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Indigenous Americans/Alaska Natives were found to be twice as likely to experience severe COVID-19 than white Americans. In the same vein, more Asian Americans, African Americans, and Indigenous Americans/Alaska Natives tested positive for COVID-19 than white Americans.
In conclusion, severe COVID-19 may be attributed to social rather than biological factors, which may be perpetuating an increased risk of infection. Healthcare providers and systems should seek to promote and improve the distribution of vaccines in racial and ethnic minority communities to decrease the risk of severe COVID-19 in minority populations .
Source: Shortreed, S. M., Gray, R., Akosile, M. A., Walker, R. L., Fuller, S., Temposky, L., Fortmann, S. P., Albertson-Junkans, L., Floyd, J. S., Bayliss, E. A., Harrington, L. B., Lee, M. H., & Dublin, S. (2022). Increased COVID-19 infection risk drives racial and ethnic disparities in severe COVID-19 outcomes. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-021-01205-2