ST. LOUIS — Viewers around Missouri reached out to the 5 On Your Side Verify team to ask about a question they saw on COVID-19 vaccine sign-up forms.
One eagle-eyed viewer noticed it on the St. Charles County health department sign-up form. Question number four asks, "What is your race/ethnicity?"
Another viewer sent in the sign-up form for SSM, which asks, "Are you in a racial/ethnic minority group that has been disproportionately affected by COVID?"
So let's Verify: Is it true that COVID-19 vaccine providers need to know your race?
And how does it affect your place on the priority list?
Our sources were statements from health departments for the state of Missouri, plus St. Charles County, St. Louis County, and SSM Health. 5 On Your Side checked forms for COVID-19 sign-ups in Illinois, and none of them included questions about race.
Doug Bolnick with the St. Charles County Department of Public Health said they ask because the state asks vaccine providers. It's one of the questions vaccine providers fill out for the Missouri ShowMeVax registry, an online database that keeps track of immunization records.
We confirmed that other counties ask this question, just at different times. St. Louis County's public health department form doesn't ask for a patient's race on their first sign-up form, but it does ask later, when people schedule their appointments.
Both departments let you opt-out if you're uncomfortable saying.
Lisa Cox with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said that data tells them whether their distribution plan is reaching diverse populations all across the state. Some of that data is available to view on the Missouri DHSS website.
So we can Verify: Vaccine providers in Missouri do ask for a patient's race to report it to the state, but it's not required.
Next up: Does your race affect your place on the priority list?
Missouri is currently in phase 1 of the vaccination plan, and so far race is not a determining factor in someone's placement on the COVID-19 vaccine priority list.
But, in phase 2, there is a category that includes minorities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
That is the point when the state of Missouri puts the data it collected in phase 1 into action, addressing any identified inequities in the distribution up to that point.
"From the science and experience throughout the pandemic, we have seen that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected certain populations within our state. This has been shown across the country, not just in Missouri. It has been shown that some populations have experienced higher levels of severe illness and morbidity when compared to the general population. The state’s vaccine distribution plan prioritizes saving lives and protecting the most vulnerable populations. That is why we included disproportionately affected populations in Phase 2 of our priority distribution plan. Again, we emphasize that regardless of any other factors, people who fall into 1A, 1B – T1, and 1B – T2 are currently eligible," Cox wrote in response to our questions.
When we asked when phase 2 would begin, Cox said she can't speculate about a date because the state is still rolling out phase 1.
So we can Verify: Providing race information to a vaccine provider can affect your place on the priority list in Missouri in phase 2.