Tell the White House: Prioritize Marginalized Populations | Physicians for Human Rights

Tell the White House: Prioritize Marginalized Populations

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COVID-19 has disproportionately ravaged Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other minority communities throughout the United States. Despite that, these groups are not receiving the vaccine at the same rate as their white counterparts. While the Biden administration has taken some steps to address vaccine equity, it’s not enough.

Send your message to the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Jeff Zientz, and request vaccine prioritization for marginalized and historically disadvantaged communities today. Please, take action now – and thank you for your support.

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Health workers need real, meaningful protection now.
Dear Mr. Zientz,

I write to join Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in urging you to take further steps to coordinate the authorities and resources of the federal government to ensure vaccine equity and access for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and other marginalized and historically disadvantaged communities.

I am heartened that President Biden has committed to vaccine equity and access for marginalized communities that, in his words, are among “the hardest hit” by COVID-19 and have “suffered the most, especially Black, Latino, Native American, and rural communities.” President Biden is also correct that “speed and efficiency must be matched with fairness and equity” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/03/18/rem...).

However, we are sadly still seeing communities of color left behind. Despite facing a disproportionately deadly toll from the pandemic, Black, Latinx, and other minority communities are receiving fewer vaccinations. The latest data on COVID-19 vaccinations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that, overall, the vaccination rate among white people was more than twice as high as the rate for Hispanic people (19 percent vs. 9 percent) and nearly twice as high as the rate for Black people (19 percent vs. 11 percent) (https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/latest-data-on-covi...).

President Biden is right that the solution is to “meet people where they are,” and the announcement that the federal government has supplied more than 500 mobile vaccination units and 600 community vaccination centers is an important step in the right direction. But more needs to be done to close the vaccine equity gap.

First, consistent with the mandate of the COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce and President Biden’s executive order on ensuring a data-driven COVID-19 response, you should direct all relevant agencies and departments to accelerate their efforts to collect and analyze data to better understand where and why vaccine equity gaps exist in communities of color, and update vaccine distribution plans to close those gaps.

Second, you should urgently implement more intuitive tools and methods so people can easily find out when and where vaccines are available, and how to sign up for vaccination appointments. President Biden’s planned rollout of a national vaccine website is a good first step, but more must be done. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study (https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/poll-finding/kff-covid-19-vacci...) found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of those who haven’t been vaccinated say they don’t have enough information about when they’ll be able to get vaccinated and nearly half (45 percent) say they don’t have enough information about where they can go to get the vaccine. Nearly one in six people who have tried to sign up for a vaccination appointment have reported being unable to do so. It’s imperative that you direct the federal government to adopt any potentially effective methods – such as SMS alert systems – to provide vaccine availability and sign-up information to those who need it most, including those who have limited English proficiency.

Third, you should direct the federal government to provide a higher share of vaccines to mobile vaccine units and vaccine centers in marginalized communities. While mass vaccination sites and direct distributions to pharmacies are important, some may not be accessible to those who need vaccines most. For example, 67 percent of communities of color live in “pharmacy deserts.” Vaccines should be made available wherever is most accessible to people. For example, a pilot program to distribute vaccines at Black churches is demonstrating promising results and could be a model for other potential vaccination sites in communities of color (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/black-churches-become-indispensable-...).

Finally, you should also ensure that the staff of the federal vaccination effort is diverse, inclusive, and representative of the communities it is serving, and place additional emphasis on coordinating with leaders in communities of color and financially supporting community-based leaders to do vaccine outreach as the federal government plans additional vaccination sites.

President Biden has made clear his commitment to vaccine equity. I urge you to make good on that commitment as you coordinate the federal government’s vaccine distribution and access efforts.

Sincerely,

[First Name] [Last Name]