DCVoice Original Site
  • Candy Reign - Making sweet things happen
Covid-19 Vaccination. African American Female Doctor Filling Syringe With Medication For Injection, Black Therapist Lady In Protective Medical Mask Holding Vial With Coronavirus Vaccine, Closeup Shot

Sticking It To Us Yet Again!

Around January of 2021, when the Pfizer vaccine was first approved, I wrote an article Is It Genocide or Suicide? For Me It’s Self-Preservation! In this article, I spoke about my fear of contracting COVID-19, and my concern about taking the vaccine, and specifically the concern among Black people. The skepticism and lack of trust are rooted in American history as a reason for that mistrust – namely the Tuskegee experiment. Despite all the doubt and uncertainty, I indicated that as soon as I became eligible, I would get vaccinated and that’s just what I did.

 I just received my second dose on March 29, 2021. I felt comfortable both times with my decision to get vaccinated. Granted, for others, there wasn’t enough data for people to feel all that comfortable. Even though I have underlying medical issues, I must tell you, it was no easy feat to get an appointment for the first dose!  There is a hub in my neighborhood that I just happened upon. I saw a line of non-Black people, (Why didn’t my community leaders let us know this site was a hub?) and I couldn’t get an appointment there. There were those in the Black communities who wanted and still want the vaccine but are unable to access an appointment. This inability to secure an appointment was not limited to those with medical issues, but the elderly community as well. Don’t want to make this a Black thing, but it has the appearance of a Black thing. If it quacks like a duck…..You know the saying.

The COVID-19 disease continues to spread around the world, with almost 129 million cases and 2.8 million deaths as of March 31, 2021. In the United States, the number of infections has risen dramatically since the first week of March, and the U.S. now has more confirmed cases and deaths than any other country worldwide with a disproportionate number of them from minority communities. Even with the unveiling of these new statistics, appointments for vaccines in the inner cities are still hard to secure as well as the vaccine itself.

Vaccine Appointment Accessibility 

Officials acknowledge that the coveted shots are disproportionately going to white people and that planners’ efforts to course-correct are having limited effect. The New York Times reported that the wealthy were getting more vaccinations, even in poorer neighborhoods. Since the time vaccines became available, various pop-up clinics that are seen now more than ever were filled with white people. Similar scenarios are unfolding around the country as states expand eligibility for the shots. Although low-income communities of color have been hit hardest by Covid-19, health officials in many cities say that people from wealthier, largely white neighborhoods have been flooding vaccination appointment systems and taking an outsized share of the limited supply. People living in underserved neighborhoods have been tripped up by obstacles that include registration phone lines and websites that can take hours to navigate.

I would constantly be on the website that listed facilities that were administering vaccines; to no avail. They asked all these upfront questions first to see if you’re eligible, then once you were done with that part, the message was always: No appointments available. My mom was hospitalized in March at a well-known upper (upper-class) eastside hospital in New York. Vaccines were being provided there. The lines were full of young and elderly non-Black people. I asked her doctor if she could receive her vaccine while she was in the hospital or upon her release. Nope! You had to have an appointment and live in the neighborhood.

From the time that the first vaccine was approved, I tried tirelessly to secure an appointment for my elderly parents who are over 80 years of age with severe underlying medical conditions. Calling their primary care physician hoping they could get the vaccine at his office, was fruitless. Why didn’t he have any vaccines? Perhaps he did and he vaccinated others. March is over and their physician still hasn’t contacted them. Why weren’t vaccines allotted to the senior citizen centers in the neighborhood? Maybe they were, just not in their neighborhood.

What does the Data Say?

Early vaccination data is incomplete, but it points to the divide. In data released last weekend for New York City, white people had received nearly half of the doses, while Black and Latino residents were starkly underrepresented based on their share of the population. And in Washington DC, 40 percent of the nearly 7,000 appointments initially made available to people 65 and older were taken by residents of its wealthiest and whitest ward, which is in the city’s upper northwest section and has had only 5 percent of its COVID deaths. Many cities are alarmed about these deficiencies and disparities and are trying to rectify inequities. Baltimore will offer the shot in housing complexes for the elderly, going door-to-door. Many of the elderly may not be able to get to a designated hub. Wow! What an excellent idea.

The Problem Needs Fixing

Fixing the problem is tricky, however. Officials fear that singling out neighborhoods for priority access could invite lawsuits alleging race preference. What! There already appears to be race preference! Significant racial disparities persist in the vaccine roll-out across the D.C. region. A few days after its 65-and-older population became eligible for the vaccine on January 11th, D.C.’s. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, who represents Ward 5, flagged the issue of wealthier residents getting disproportionate access to the vaccine. Overall, 74 percent of deaths and 48 percent of cases in Washington have been among Black residents, who make up 46 percent of the population; 11 percent of deaths and 25 percent of cases have been among white residents, who make up nearly the other half of the district.

Getting vaccinated may be more accessible to the Black community if appointments were prioritize based on people deemed most at risk and what puts one at most risk for severe COVID. People of color are also more likely to hold essential jobs and have chronic medical conditions that would put them ahead in the line for vaccinations. Maurice Cook, who leads the youth-based nonprofit Serve Your City and coordinates mutual aid efforts in D.C.’s Ward 6, said in an interview “White people are going to have to wait for once in America. You can’t talk about equity without some form of sacrifice. Black people have been getting vaccinated at lower rates as white residents, enabled by the city’s system of vaccine administration, have been “leapfrogging over dead Black bodies to get this vaccine.” What a metaphor!

So the Story Goes…

Vaccination and vaccination appointment disparities continue to be a huge issue across cities and my concerns lie within marginalized localities. However, I purposely pinpointed the cities mentioned because I live in New York, have family who live and work in D.C., and family in Maryland and work in Baltimore. This in itself continues to hit home because some of my family still wait to get an appointment to be vaccinated. My parents, who live in New York, have since been vaccinated, receiving their 2nd dose at the neighborhood Walgreen Pharmacy. On the other hand, my husband still cannot secure an appointment!  And so the story goes!

June Coxson

Add comment