By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, Oct. 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has hit minority groups in the United States hard, with significantly more deaths among Black and Hispanic Americans compared with white and Asian Americans, a new study finds.
According to the report, these disparities highlight the need to address ongoing inequities influencing health and longevity in the United States.
What’s more, “focusing on COVID-19 deaths alone without examining total excess deaths — that is, deaths due to non-COVID-19 causes as well as to COVID-19 — may underestimate the true impact of the pandemic,” added study author Meredith Shiels. She’s a senior investigator at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
For the study, the researchers compared excess deaths by race/ethnicity, sex, age group and cause of death from March to December 2020 with data from the same months in 2019. The team used provisional death certificate data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The findings showed that nearly 3 million people died in the United States between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2020. Compared with the same period in 2019, that totaled 477,200 excess deaths, with 74% of these excess deaths being due to COVID-19.
After taking age into account, the numbers of excess deaths by population size among Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Hispanic men and women were more than double those in white and Asian American men and women, according to the report.
The data do not explain the reasons for the excess non-COVID deaths. “It is possible that fear of seeking out health care during the pandemic or misattribution of causes of death from COVID-19 are responsible for a majority of the excess non-COVID-19 deaths,” Shiels said in a news release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The excess deaths that occurred during the pandemic have resulted in growing disparities in overall U.S. death rates, with the gap in age-adjusted all-cause deaths increasing between 2019 and 2020 for Black and American Indian/Alaska Native men and women compared with white men and women.
For example, the investigators found that in 2019, total deaths by population among Black men was 26% higher than in white men, but in 2020 it was 45% higher. The same held true for women. In 2019, total deaths by population among Black women was 15% higher than in white women, but in 2020 it was 32% higher, according to the report published Oct. 5 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Resistance to vaccination could be one big contributing factor.
Study co-author Dr. Eliseo Pérez-Stable is director of the U.S. National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. He said, “Our efforts at NIH to help mitigate these COVID disparities have been heavily focused on promoting testing and vaccine uptake through community-engaged research. However, vaccine hesitancy poses a real threat, so we are addressing the misinformation and distrust through collaborative partnerships with trusted community stakeholders.”
For more on COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: U.S. National Institutes of Health, news release, Oct. 4, 2021