In the six weeks after Omicron became the predominant coronavirus variant in the United States, black adults were hospitalized nearly four times as often as white adults, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The total number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations during that period — 38.4 per 100,000 adults — was more than double the number in the previous six months, when the Delta variant was dominant, the study said.
For non-Hispanic black adults, the rate of hospitalization over the same period was 3.8 times the rate for non-Hispanic white adults. It was also the highest rate observed among “any racial and ethnic group during the pandemic,” the study said.
The study, published Friday, was led by Christopher A. Taylor, a member of the CDC’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Team, and co-authored by scientists from universities across the country. It was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a regular agency report on infectious diseases in the United States, and it was based on data from 99 counties in 14 states.
When Omicron peaked in January, hospital admissions among the unvaccinated were four times higher than in people who received a primary series of Covid vaccinations, and 12 times higher than in adults who received additional doses or boosters, it said. the study.
When coronavirus vaccines first became available, black Americans were much less likely than white Americans to get vaccinated. A wave of pro-vaccine campaigns and a wave of hospitalizations and deaths from viruses during the Delta wave that mostly involved the unvaccinated prompted many in the black community to change their minds, narrowing the gap.
But the rift still existed when Omicron struck. The percentage of black people in the United States who had received a primary vaccine series at the end of January was 36.6 percent, and of those, 43.9 percent had received a booster when they qualified, the study said. For whites, the percentages were 47.3 percent and 54.5 percent.
The causes of hospitalizations among black adults may be other factors, such as underlying medical conditions or poor access to health care, the study said. Omicron’s increased transmissibility may also have increased the risks for hospitalization regardless of vaccination status, it added. During the Omicron wave, 25.5 percent of black hospitalized patients had received a primary vaccine series, compared with 14.9 percent during Delta.
Taken together, these findings suggest that the increased risk of hospitalization among black adults during the Omicron-predominant period may also be due, in part, to lower percentages of black adults receiving both the primary vaccination series and booster doses,” the study said. †
Pam Belluck contributed to reporting.