Since October, anyone aged 65 or older — or those with specific health conditions or in certain settings — has been eligible to get a booster shot. This was key in adding protection against the coronavirus, as studies showed vaccine effectiveness started to wane after six months.

As of the end of November, over 17.7 million adults over the age of 65 have gotten booster shots, according to CDC data. It does not differentiate between those who got the Pfizer or Modern booster. Of that group, 75% is white and only 6.6% is Black. Comparable ethnic and racial groups are Hispanics/Latinos at 7.2%, and Asians at 4.2%. 

While there are similar disparities among those fully vaccinated, they aren’t nearly as dramatic. When you look at everyone who is fully vaccinated, the gap lowers to 58% of white people and 10% Black, compared to about 19% Hispanic/Latino and 6% Asian.

It isn’t a surprise that the Black community is trailing in getting the booster shot. The latest round of Household Pulse surveys, which were conducted by the Census Bureau from July through October, offered insight into vaccine hesitancy in the Black community.

Of the Black adult respondents who weren’t vaccinated (81% were fully vaccinated), 12% said they would “definitely” go get the vaccine, and 36% said they “will definitely not.” It was nearly the same response for the 12-17 age bracket, with 8% saying they will “definitely” get vaccinated and 9% saying they definitely won’t.

According to the survey, the top reasons for not getting vaccinated are concern with possible side effects, cost (all of the Covid-19 vaccines are free), and specifically for the 12-17 age bracket, the reasons were that guardians don’t vaccinate their children and the belief that other people have a higher need.

Since the vaccine became widely available at the beginning of the year, Black people have been among the lowest-vaccinated of racial and ethnic groups. There has been a lot of research into why this is, citing barriers to access like transportation, misinformation, and a historic distrust of the U.S. government and medical institutions.

The vaccines offer critical protection against Covid-19, and Black people have been among the highest death rates from the virus throughout the pandemic. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are over 90% effective, and continue providing high levels of protection against severe illness and hospitalization even after six months.

“For me, endemicity means a lot more people get vaccinated, a lot more people get boosted, and although you don’t eliminate or eradicate it, that infection is not dominating your life,” said top U.S. infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci.