Race Forward calls for urgency in centering the needs of communities of color as we battle the pandemic.
Black, Latinx and Indingeous communities have been more severely impacted by COVID-19 than any other communities in our country. This tragic outcome is not random; it is the result of long standing historical racist practices and current day systemic racism putting Black, Latinx and indigenous people at dramatically higher risk of death and morbidity. An equitable vaccine distribution strategy requires taking this history into account and prioritizing those made vulnerable for receiving the vaccine as soon as possible.
Not only must we prioritize speedy distribution, given the long history of institutional abuse — from the Tuskegee research study of human experimentation on Black men to the widespread forced sterilization of women of color - we must also combat inevitable and understandable mistrust with education and outreach at the scale needed to protect human life.
According to a study by the National Foundation of Infectious Disease, despite evidence showing that vaccination can prevent contracting and dying from the coronavirus, more than half of black Americans remain hesitant about getting the vaccine, and of those who say they will get the vaccine, only 19% say they will get it right away with 31% preferring to wait.
We encourage communities of color to look to our Black, Latinx and indigenous public health leaders, such as Dr. Aletha Maybank, MPH, Chief Equity Officer and Group Vice President for the American Medical Association (AMA); Dr. David Malebranche, MPH, Associate Professor and Internal Medicine Physician at Morehouse Healthcare; and Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, for guidance and information during this period of crisis in order to safeguard the lives and health of loved ones and neighbors.
Race Forward commends the Biden Administration for measures it has taken to advance vaccine confidence, and equitable access to and distribution of the vaccination among communities of color, namely:
Passage of H.R.1319 - American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which, in addition to providing much needed relief to Americans suffering from the pandemic, provides $1 billion in funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen vaccine confidence and improve rates of vaccination in the United States.
The Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Response to COVID-19 initiative, providing $250 million in federal grants to localities partnering with community organizations to encourage underserved populations to get COVID-19 vaccinations and adopt safety practices to help them avoid contracting the virus.
Race Forward and its Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE), which works with local and regional government jurisdictions across the country to ensure racial equity in all of their policies and practices, also applauds the growing and effective community-government partnerships to address the vital challenge of creating equitable vaccine access.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows more than 29 million cases and more than 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 as of March 12, with Black and Latinx individuals accounting for ⅓ of all cases and close to 30% of deaths.
Yet, CDC data for the same period shows that of those who have received at least one dose of the vaccine or have been fully vaccinated, Whites outnumber Black, Latinx, Indigenious and other communities of color combined by 2 to 1.
High levels of COVID deaths in communities of color is one more catastrophic outcome of systemic racism. We must address the systemic nature of racism in order to implement equitable solutions that prioritize the health and well being of our most vulnerable — those in communities of color. When we do so, we can make powerful progress in fighting this pandemic and we all benefit.