There is no question that Covid-19 vaccine distribution should be targeted and prioritize the hardest-hit communities, the chair of Biden’s Covid-19 Equity Task Force said.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said during CNN’s coronavirus town hall Wednesday night that multiple analyses are already showing a pattern of racial disparities among those receiving Covid-19 vaccines across the country.
Earlier this week, a CNN analysis of data from 14 states showed that vaccine coverage is twice as high among White people on average than it is among Black and Latino people.
Part of that, Nunez-Smith said, is linked to vaccine acceptance and to whether people have easy access to distribution sites.
“We have to make vaccination easy and accessible. That’s a key priority that’s built into President Biden’s national plan … and when people cannot get to these new vaccination sites that are being stood up that we bring the vaccine to them and the vaccines are free,” Nunez-Smith said.
When there are racial disparities, Nunez-Smith said, “we don’t often dig deeper into what are those root causes or those social structural driver.”
Since the beginning of pandemic, Black, Latino and Native Americans have disproportionately been hospitalized and died from the virus. Experts have said the disparity in outcomes has been linked to access to quality health care, healthy food, clean air and water.
“We know that when we see these disparities in race, it has to do with what creates risk for exposure as well as risk for severity. And both of those are quite frankly tied to underlying social factors,” Nunez-Smith told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper during Wednesday’s town hall.
The pandemic has exacerbated existing health disparities and last year, Nunez-Smith said the US needs to “ensure equitable opportunities for health and well-being.”
Earlier this month, Biden and his administration released details of an ambitious national vaccination strategy with the hopes of combating concerns with vaccine access and hesitancy among people of color.
Biden’s five-point plan includes putting federally supported vaccination centers in high-risk neighborhoods, setting up mobile vaccination sites in medically underserved areas, administering the vaccine at independent pharmacies, partnering with community health centers and ensuring high risk facilities such as jails and homeless shelters have access to the vaccine.
“We are going to make sure there are vaccination centers in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, in Black and Latino communities and rural communities as well,” Biden said at the time.
As Covid-19 continues its rampage across the country and the urgent campaign to vaccinate Americans is underway, Nunez-Smith said officials should continue thinking about what has put some people at higher risk than others.
“We think about risk for severity, it’s the fact that so many people of color in our country are living with multiple chronic diseases because of the chronic inability to access high quality health care,” she said.