Story at a glance

  • In the U.S., nearly 5 million first doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered.
  • This is well below the United States's goal of 20 million by the end of 2020.
  • Experts call for more coordination to get vaccinations up.

Out of the now 17 million doses distributed, about 4.8 million first doses have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are signs that vaccination efforts are gaining the necessary support and attention at the local level. There have been reports of a freezer failing in Northern California on Monday, forcing the hospital to give out the remaining vaccines within two hours. But at the same time, some areas have resorted to using the ticketing website Eventbrite to make appointments for vaccination

The U.S. could look to other countries as examples for how to run vaccination efforts. Israel has an existing app that allows people to see their own health information that is now being used to make appointments. India has had some dry runs of vaccine drives at clinics that will be administering the shots.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, people of color and people in marginalised communities are being hit the hardest. In addition, Black and BIPOC communities have a history of being abused by the medical community and may have reluctance to trust in the new vaccines.

“The Black​ communities most at risk in this pandemic are the least likely to take a potentially lifesaving vaccine when it becomes available to them,” write emergency physicians Benjamin Thomas and Monique Smith in an opinion piece for The New York Times. “This isn’t a problem relegated to the past; Black patients are still treated poorly today.”


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Thomas and Smith make a few suggestions for how to gain trust in the Black communities in the short term, like getting trusted celebrities to speak out about COVID-19 survival stories and long-term health effects.

“In addition to the much needed, longer-term strategy of increasing Black representation among health care providers, we need a national public health campaign with local momentum that uses trusted voices in the Black community,” write Thomas and Smith. “Medicine has broken the trust of the Black community. Now it must work hard to earn it back. Otherwise, Black people will be further marginalized by our health care system and further victimized by this pandemic.”

In the U.K., health experts have seen evidence that people of color are also carrying heavy mental health burdens.

“I work with Racial Equality Councils and we find that young people from ethnic minority communities have consistently worse mental health than other groups across every measure throughout the pandemic, with higher levels of depression, anxiety, thoughts of death or self-harm, reported rises in racial abuse, hate crimes and loneliness, and lower life satisfaction and happiness,” says Wendy Sims-Schouten, who is an Associate Professor in Childhood Studies at the University of Portsmouth.

“Without any clear measures in place to support their specific needs and centralise their voices, this is likely to get worse,” says Sims-Schouten. “Current measures for support do not engage enough with the unique needs of children and families from a range of ethnic minority communities, once their voices are heard we can start by implementing support systems that centralise their needs.”


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The U.K. recently decided to allow the second doses of vaccines to be delayed for up to 12 weeks after the first dose. This could give the government much needed time and resources to get the vaccine to as many people as possible, but it could still also leave people out of the process if they are not a focus in vaccination programs.

Emergency physician and Washington Post columnist Leana Wen writes there should be stricter timelines for when states need to finish giving out all the doses that they’ve received. Wen adds that the federal government should ask state and local governments what they would need to reach ambitious targets.

But if we are to achieve vaccination goals, every level of government will need to do better. Wen writes, “Developing a safe, effective vaccine was a moonshot. Now, we need a similar all-out effort to turn vaccines into vaccinations.”

For up-to-date information about COVID-19, check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For updated global case counts, check this page maintained by Johns Hopkins University or the COVID Tracking Project.

You can follow Chia-Yi Hou on Twitter.


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Published on Jan 06, 2021