Emergency Preparedness, Response, & Recovery Subcommittee Chairwoman Val Demings joined Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson in sending a letter to the White House COVID-19 Equity Task Force regarding the lack of equitable distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
Initial reporting indicates African American and Hispanic populations across the country are being vaccinated at a rate dramatically lower than the rest of the population. For example, in Mississippi, African Americans represent roughly 38.3% of COVID-19 cases and 41.5% of COVID deaths but account for only 15.3% of vaccinations. Similarly, in Florida, African Americans represent roughly 14.6% of COVID-19 cases and 16.5% of COVID-19 deaths, but account for only 5.7% of vaccinations.
“Like other healthcare access disparities, the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines reflects systemic injustices that existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Chairs wrote.
The letter also took on the Trump Administration. “Equitably distributing vaccines across the country requires an affirmative effort to address historical inequities and repair the damage done by the inefficient and counterproductive actions of the Trump Administration,” the Chairs continued.
In addition to the steps the Biden Administration is already taking, the Chairs urge the Administration to prioritize greater uniform data collection and reporting practices on testing and vaccine distribution that includes information on race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status amongst State, Local, Territorial, and Tribal partners; enhance community vaccination outreach efforts; redouble access through internet alternatives, like traditional mail, to promote vaccine uptake and spread awareness about vaccine locations; and tackle transportation challenges that keep eligible people from accessing vaccination sites.
“Eliminating vaccine distribution inequities will require a robust effort by the Federal government and State, Local, Territorial, and Tribal partners,” the letter concludes.