Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Racial disparities during COVID point to underlying problems

A woman gets her first COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Lorraine Harvey, an in-home care worker, receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse Rudolfo Garcia at a clinic at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital last month in Los Angeles.
Mario Tama | Getty Images file

Even before the pandemic, public health leaders knew there were wide disparities in health care for people of color. But COVID-19 brought that into sharp focus.

Research by the APM Research Lab found Indigenous, Black and Pacific Islander Americans experienced the highest death tolls from COVID-19. Conversely, those same groups are getting immunized against the disease at lower rates. The vaccination rate for Black Americans is about half that for white Americans. The vaccination rate for Latinos is even lower.

Given these numbers, scientists are re-examining their medical and research ethics and procedures for people of color. Earlier this month, the University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values held a conference to discuss some of the most urgent questions surrounding these issues. 

Thursday, we aired a frank discussion between MPR News host Kerri Miller and a speaker at that event — one of the nation’s leading experts in racial health disparities.


  • Stephen Thomas is the director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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