The reason can be traced back to who gets sick enough to warrant hospitalization.
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Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine and Duke University say more than half of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the country are Black or Hispanic.
"Which is much more than you'd expect from the populations who live in these areas," said Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, a Stanford cardiologist, who is the lead author of the study, which examined 7,868 patients at 88 U.S. hospitals between January and July.
"Once you are in the hospital, the fact that you're Black or Hispanic, or Asian, or white, does not increase chance of dying. But by sheer number, Black and Hispanic patients die more."
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The average mortality rate for all patients was 18.4%, but varied greatly by hospital. Stanford's overall coronavirus mortality rate is much lower, at 6%.
"What is it about these hospitals?" asked Dr. Rodriguez. "Is it their resources, are they just overburdened with too many sick patients?"
The study puts an even brighter spotlight on the racial and ethnic disparities in our health care system, which is exactly why doctors running COVID-19 vaccine trials, are so focused on diverse volunteer groups.
"You are white Caucasian. I am Latino," said Dr. Hector Bonilla, to ABC7 news reporter, Kate Larsen. "My genes are completely different than yours."
Dr. Bonilla is an infectious disease doctor at Stanford and co-investigator for the Phase 3 Johnson and Johnson vaccine trial.
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To ensure the vaccine works for the hardest hit Latino and black communities, he needs a diverse volunteer group. But he says because of trust issues in Latino communities, that's been difficult.
"It's another barrier I need to overcome to accomplish my goals."
The Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccine trial at Stanford has enrolled 42 of 1,000 participants. Enrollment is open.
Information about how to volunteer can be found here.
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