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House Democrats press Biden over vaccine distribution for people of color

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A group of House Democrats led by Reps. Cori Bush (Mo.) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (Calif.) wrote President Biden and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Tuesday, expressing their concern over how communities of color most affected by COVID-19 have received the vaccine disproportionately less.

“While the COVID-19 crisis affects every American, it is the latest disease to infect and kill Black and Latino Americans at higher rates than people in the rest of the population. We have seen firsthand what this crisis is doing to our communities, especially those that are low-income and do not have access to the services they need to stay healthy and pay the bills,” the lawmakers wrote.

According to The COVID Tracking Project, Black, Indigenous and people of color in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic at a higher rate than white Americans. Specifically, Black Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other racial or ethnic group.

Despite this, initial data suggests that the vaccines are not reaching these communities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released statistics on Monday about the first month of vaccine distribution. Of the people who received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine whose race was known, 11.5 percent were Latino, while 5.4 percent were Black.

“Equally concerning is that the rate of vaccinations is disproportionately lower for health care workers among communities of color,” the House members continued, citing a Los Angeles Times article.

They also mentioned the low percentage of Black Americans who are completely on board with getting the vaccine, underscoring generations of inequality and mistrust of the government.

Moreover, the House members prompted Biden and acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran to “outline the Administration’s plan to ensure that underserved communities and communities of color are no longer being left behind during the vaccine distribution process” and answer a handful of questions in the process.

The letter comes after three members of Massachusetts’s congressional delegation, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), wrote HHS late last week, urging the agency to address the issue.

“It is critical that the Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and immigrant communities that have been most impacted by this virus and have been more likely to contract, be hospitalized, and die from the disease have access to the vaccine,” Warren and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote. “Free and equitable access to vaccines is essential to saving lives and slowing the spread of the coronavirus.”

Additionally on Tuesday, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish a vaccine distribution center in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District for the same reason.

“The 7th Congressional District is one of the most diverse districts in the country, home to many communities of color and immigrant communities that are being underserved by vaccine distribution across the country,” Bourdeaux wrote.

In his lengthy COVID-19 response plan, Biden calls for the creation of “new, federally supported community vaccination centers across the country” and for federal agencies to “drive equity throughout the vaccination campaign and broader pandemic response.”

Tags Ayanna Pressley Cori Bush Cori Bush COVID-19 Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Joe Biden Nanette Diaz Barragan Nanette Diaz Barragan racial equity vaccine distribution

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