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No internet, no vaccine: How lack of internet access has limited vaccine availability for racial and ethnic minorities

A man fills out an online application during a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago in July 2012. The fair offered computer access to people who do not have internet access. Scott Olson/Getty Images

No internet, no vaccine: How lack of internet access has limited vaccine availability for racial and ethnic minorities

A man fills out an online application during a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago in July 2012. The fair offered computer access to people who do not have internet access. Scott Olson/Getty Images

No internet, no vaccine: How lack of internet access has limited vaccine availability for racial and ethnic minorities

A man fills out an online application during a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago in July 2012. The fair offered computer access to people who do not have internet access. Scott Olson/Getty Images

No internet, no vaccine: How lack of internet access has limited vaccine availability for racial and ethnic minorities

A man fills out an online application during a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago in July 2012. The fair offered computer access to people who do not have internet access. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Access to the internet, having an internet-enabled device and understanding how to use both have been necessary to sign up for the vaccine.

Racial and ethnic minority communities that lack internet access have been left behind in the race to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The average monthly cost of internet access, about US$70, can be out of reach for those who can barely afford groceries.

Reporters and scholars have written about the effects of lack of internet access in rural areas in the U.S. and developing countries, but they have paid less attention to the harm of lack of internet access in racial and ethnic minority communities in major cities.

We are researchers who study health disparities. We are concerned that even when vaccinations are offered in these communities, those at greatest risk for COVID-19 may be unable to obtain appointments without the help of family or friends. This includes racial and ethnic minority communities and older adults, the age group that is currently being vaccinated.

Our research suggests that lack of internet access may be an important reason. And for the almost 13.8 million older adults in the U.S. who live alone, asking for help may not be an option.

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