Advocates call for improved COVID-19 vaccination process in Black, Hispanic communities

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to make its way around Texas, advocates are concerned for…

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to make its way around Texas, advocates are concerned for communities of color.

Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services has shown that the virus is deadlier for people of color, with more than half of the deaths in Texas occurring among the Hispanic or Black communities. Now, advocates are concerned that the state’s designated vaccination sites are being placed in more affluent areas that will give the white population greater access to the medicine.

“We already saw huge disparities in death rates and people getting [coronavirus] infections, and there wasn’t availability of resources like health care for brown and Black communities suffering tremendously,” said Kazique Prince, interim executive director for Austin-based nonprofit Central Texas Collective for Racial Equity, as reported by Juan Pablo Garnham and Mandi Cai with the Texas Tribune. “I’m very nervous and anxious that this [vaccination effort] is not going to work out for us.”

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Engineer Omar Gomez shared with the Tribune that he started volunteering in Austin’s Hispanic community when the pandemic first started and noticed it was more difficult to find masks and hand sanitizer, adding that “whatever happened with PPE is happening with the vaccine: disparities, inequalities. It’s not a balanced approach.”

A letter to Governor Greg Abbott confirmed that lawmakers share similar concerns, with 38 members from the Texas House of Representatives asking for an improved vaccination distribution process.

Democratic State Representative Vikki Goodwin sent requests to Gov. Abbott’s office asking for more vaccinations in minority communities.

“A cursory glance at my local map of vaccination locations suggests that providers are much less concentrated in areas that have a higher percentage of minority residents,” said Rep. Goodwin, as reported by CBS Austin’s Christian Flores. “In light of the fact that Black and Latino populations have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19, I have concerns about this pattern being replicated statewide. I ask that you take special care to distribute opportunities for vaccination widely and with an eye toward making them equally available to all Texans regardless of racial or ethnic background.”

In Houston’s Harris County, only 6,000 vaccine doses have been received so far, compared to 224,000 being sent directly to distribution providers, as reported by the Tribune. County spokesperson Rafael Lemaitre said they’re working with community leaders to reduce issues for people of color, including undocumented people.

But first, experts and advocates said officials will have to first work to build trust in communities of color.

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