Cooper: Vaccine facts tell different story than media stereotype

AP File Photo/Matt York / Voters deliver their ballot for the 2020 presidential election to a polling station in Tempe, Ariz.

What is the national media scenario about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the United States?

The overwhelming story being pushed is that the great majority of the hesitancy comes from white Republicans, and mostly in the South. But is that true?

Anecdotally, many conservative people say they have chosen not to get the vaccine, and, frankly, the reason for most of the hesitancy is not clear. Some cite religious reasons, some aren't sure the vaccine had enough testing, and some probably want to take it out on President Joe Biden, who they may or may not believe actually won the 2020 presidential election.

But what do the figures say?

According to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control, whites make up 61% of the U.S. population and have gotten 59% of the vaccinations of at least one dose. Black people make up 12% of the population; they have received 9% of the vaccinations. Hispanics, who make up 17% of the population, have gotten 16% of the vaccinations. And Asians, who have a 6% share of the population, have gotten 6% of the vaccines.

Proportionately, then, Blacks and Hispanics have about as poor a record as whites of getting the vaccine, which have gone wanting in practically every state, regardless of party preference.

And while official vaccine figures are not listed by party affiliation, and whites are less monolithic in voting than other sizable races and ethnicities in the U.S., the percentage of vaccinations by white people in 11 states won by Trump - including four in the South - has equaled or exceeded their percentage of population in the state. In 10 states won by Trump, the percentage of white people exceeds their percentage of vaccinations, but in eight of those 10 states the percentage difference is five points or less.

However, in 37 of the states (and Washington, D.C.) registering numbers, a smaller percentage of the Black population has received a vaccination than their percentage of population in that particular state. In eight states, all states with a small Black population, the percentage of Blacks receiving a vaccination is roughly equal to their percentage of population in that state.

The percentage of Hispanics receiving a vaccination in 30 states is less than their percentage of the population. In seven states, the percentage approximately equals the population percentage. And in six states or the District of Columbia, four of them won by Trump, the percentage of Hispanics receiving the vaccination exceeds their percentage of the population.

With COVID-19 vaccines, the ability to receive a vaccine cannot be compared to, say, general access to health care. Thanks to the former Trump administration, the vaccine is available at no cost to every person in the U.S. who is eligible to receive it. And thanks to the Trump and Biden administrations, it has been rolled out in as many places and in as many forums as there were and are volunteers to handle it. In most places, free transportation has been offered for individuals to get to vaccination sites, and for some lower income individuals, vaccines even have been offered door to door.

Unfortunately, Hamilton County does fit the stereotyping done by the national media. Whites make up 72.9% of the county population - which went for Trump 53.6% to 44% in the 2020 election - but have gotten only 64.6% of the vaccinations. But Blacks fare no better, with 18.1% of the county population and 12.2% of the vaccines.

Asians have exceeded their 2% of the county population with 2.3% of the vaccines, while Hispanics make up 5.9% of the county population and have gotten 5.2% of the vaccines.

In Hamilton County's case, skewing the vaccine numbers slightly are the 35,102 people who were listed as "other" or "unknown" race, and 10,676 people where it was unknown if they were Hispanic or non-Hispanic.

Across the country, though, not surprisingly and based on facts and not conjecture, another media stereotype - white Republican voters as the main vaccine holdouts - falls by the wayside. Percentage-wise, Blacks and Hispanics are doing no better than whites in getting inoculated.

That said, we have been clear about how important it is for all eligible people to get vaccinated, especially in light of the rising cases of the new Delta variant of the coronavirus and the only rare chances of vaccinated people becoming very sick.

But stereotypes? They're worth about as much as a used needle.