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Unequal Doses

Wed, 04/07/2021 - 17:22

Covid-19 deaths among Black and Latino New Yorkers far outpaced the rate at which members of the white population died. But people of color in the state are getting vaccinated far less than their Caucasian counterparts. Having been hit hardest by the pandemic, they are now not getting the help they need to stay healthy.

According to the State Department of Health, of all the people who have received at least one dose of vaccine, whites account for the greatest portion — more than three-quarters of all doses. This outpaces their portion of the state population. Blacks have had about 10 percent of the total vaccines administered despite being about 17 percent of the population. Latinos have received about 13 percent of doses but account for about 18 percent of state residents. Whites are about 70 percent of the population and have had about 76 percent of the doses statewide. For Black Suffolk residents, the statistics are even worse: Only about half of those eligible to be vaccinated for Covid-19 have had the shot. The state did not provide a break-out figure for Latino residents of the county. In the United States as a whole, the pattern holds, with whites getting the shot in excess of their part of the population and the rate for Blacks and Latinos falling below their part of the population.

In the big picture, the vaccine rollout has been successful, but the disparity by group must be addressed. The Kaiser Family Foundation has reported survey results that Black and Latino Americans are somewhat less eager than white Americans to get the shot. (Republicans were the least likely group to want to be vaccinated: 29 percent of G.O.P. voters asked in the survey said they would “definitely not” get the shot.) A significant majority of people of color want the vaccines. Just 10 percent of Black people said they were adamantly opposed and 8 percent of Latino people, only slightly less than the population as a whole.

A recent analysis found that vaccine distribution centers were for the most part missing in predominantly Black and Latino communities. Another study showed how in more than 20 urban counties, Black Americans had to travel greater distances to get the shots than did white Americans. In addition, where there was vaccine distribution, whites tended to snap up appointments more easily because of better access to the internet. Also a factor is that it may be more difficult for Black and Latino workers to get time off from their jobs. One solution that has had some success is mobile vaccination centers, and pop-ups, like the one organized by OLA of Eastern Long Island, a Latino advocacy group. And the state is hoping that having houses of worship sign on to host vaccination clinics might also help.

The White House is taking action to encourage vaccine equity, in part through $250 million for organizations taking on the issue. At the local level, more needs to be done, though much of the needed data is not made available. Town and county officials need to pressure the state for detailed data about who has easy access to vaccines and who does not. Generally, people want to get their shots. Officials must open their eyes to the differences among who can actually line up to do so.


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