Inoculating non-whites is the first step to reducing vaccine hesitation
The biden administration has pledged to deliver 150m covid-19 vaccinations within the president’s first 100 days in office, but who should get those shots? Most states are prioritising frontline health-care workers and long-term care-home residents, followed by people aged 75 or older and essential workers. Few states are making sure African-Americans or Hispanics get vaccinated, even though they are three times more likely to die from the virus than whites. In fact minorities may be at the back of the queue for something that is of great value to all Americans.
In Memphis, Tennessee, in mid-January, all 10,800 vaccine appointments were claimed before those without internet access could sign up by phone; but black and Hispanic Americans are less likely to have internet access. Location is also a barrier in some instances. In Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which includes Boston, 46% of white residents live in a census tract within one mile of a vaccination site, compared with only 14% of black residents and 26% of Hispanic residents. “If the goal is to help reduce the suffering and the death particularly experienced by black, Latino, and older communities, then...everybody should be focusing their vaccination efforts on reaching those groups,” says Nina Schwalbe of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. This has not been the case, however.
In early January New York City announced new vaccination sites in the Bronx and Queens, predominantly minority areas. But the mass-vaccination centres at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium delayed their openings because of low supplies, while many other sites closed. In Dallas, Texas, health officials attempted to give vaccinations first to residents living in predominantly minority zip codes, but state officials threatened to revoke vaccine allocation if they were not distributed to all eligible people regardless of race.