Agência Pública analyzed data from more than 8.5 million people that had been vaccinated in Brazil up to that moment and found out that the number of white people that had gotten the vaccine was double that of black people. This inequality remained when looking at the vaccination rate inside each ethnic group: less than 2 out of 100 black people had received their first covid shot, while more than 3 out of 100 white people had gotten their first jab. At the same time, data revealed that proportionally there were 10% more deaths from Covid-19 among black people.
After the article was published, our team was invited to present the report at a meeting of the National Health Council that discussed Brazil’s vaccination plans. Afterward, the National Health Council published a document calling for the adoption of anti-racist actions regarding access to health care by the Ministry of Health, state and municipal health secretariats and councils.
The article was among the finalists for the 2021 Brazilian Conference on Data Journalism, Coda Awards. It was also republished by 33 websites and media outlets, in Portuguese and Spanish. Moreover, we have registered through the BuzzSumo platform more than 90 citations and backlinks of the story in national and international websites and media organizations, including The World, Newsweek and RTP (Rádio e Televisão de Portugal).
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome data and data from the National Vaccination Campaign against Covid-19 were exported from the OpenDataSUS website (government platform for data regarding public health) on 22 February and 15 March, respectively. We filtered the SARS data classified as Covid-19-related and counted the notifications, ICU admissions, and deaths of patients who declared their color/race as white, parda (brown), or preta (black) – the last two were added together as negra (black) in the analyses, in accordance with the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics’ (IBGE) convention. The script used for the data cleansing, the clean data and the analysis were included in the report. The vaccination database was initially filtered by the field describing which dose had been administered. We only analyzed the data for the 1st dose. Next, we checked the numbers of vaccinated people according to race/color, age and priority groups. The conducted analyzes are described in the article’s methodology section.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Dealing with a database that had more than 10 million entries demanded a lot of work and time. It was also difficult to establish methodological criteria for filtering and cleaning the base in order to avoid errors due to possible problems in the filling of the data. The lack of government support to answer our questions was also another obstacle. The project should be selected for having circumvented all these challenges and still having revealed unprecedented information in a country of continental proportions such as Brazil, as well as of great relevance to millions of people in the midst of the largest pandemic ever experienced in the country. The report served as a warning on the impacts of structural racism in Brazil at a time of apparent equality in vaccine distribution and it even reached the highest instances responsible for analyzing the vaccination campaign.
What can others learn from this project?
Other journalists can access, replicate, and redo all the steps of our report, since we have published the complete methodology and the databases we used, including databases that are no longer available in public platforms due to the federal government’s lack of transparency. The piece can serve as a reference for more journalists to investigate health data and reveal structural inequalities in Brazil and in other countries which have a direct impact on peoples’ lives. Having access to this sort of information is fundamental for the elaboration and correction of public policies.