Scientists find Black women four times likelier to die of COVID

die of covid, black women
© Andrey Popov

Researchers at Harvard University found that Black women are four times more likely to die of COVID than white men – the data also revealed that Black women are three times more likely to die of the virus than Asian men

So far, men have been understood to be more likely to die of COVID hospitalisation. UK Government advice for vaccination schedules prioritises men of certain ethnicities.

When it comes to medical inequalities, the global pandemic brings ongoing crises sharply into the light. The HIV epidemic in the US was recently linked to structural racism, and pregnancies continue to be riskier for women of a certain tax bracket.

The GenderSci Lab at Harvard University investigated race and gender data of COVID deaths in the US, uncovering a new pattern.

Lead author Tamara Rushovich, Harvard PhD candidate in population health sciences and lab member at the GenderSci Lab, said: “This analysis complicates the simple narrative that men are dying at greater rates of COVID-19 than women.”

Four times more likely to die?

Their data revealed that Black women are currently four times more likely to die of COVID than white men. They are also three times more likely to die than Asian men. When it comes to the data on women across racial groups, Black women are still more likely to die than Asian and white women.

However, Black men still have higher likelihoods of death than any other racial group. They are over 6 times more likely to die than white men.

When researchers examined the gap between Black and white women, they found that the gap between deaths in both groups was over three times bigger than the gap between white men and women.

Essentially, whiteness appears to be a protective factor for women.

The rate of COVID deaths for Black and white women are so starkly different that researchers question how influential gender alone truly is on virus outcomes.

They explained: “It is well understood that racism and social inequities, not genetics, are responsible for racial disparities in COVID-19 mortality. However, many researchers focus on differences in biology to explain the sex disparity in COVID-19 mortality.”

The Harvard team highlight that societal factors surrounding gender, combined with racism and poverty are equally important to understanding why so many Black people are disproportionately dying of COVID-19.

Black people in care homes experience similar death rates

A separate study conducted across care homes found that Black residents were more likely to experience COVID hospitalisation and death.

Senior author Dr Tamara Konetzka, the Louis Block Professor of Public Health Sciences and the College at UChicago: “Very early on, we saw some striking relationships with the racial composition of a nursing home, where nursing homes serving more Black and brown residents seem to have more COVID cases and deaths.

“Black and non-White people in general tend to live in neighborhoods that have a high prevalence of the virus and even the staff who work in these facilities are more likely to live in these neighborhoods. It’s about location and size, more than anything else.”

Read the full study here.


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