The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has led to optimism and hope about the future for some Americans, but others have been left behind. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities have received fewer doses in proportion to their illness and fatality rates, which have consistently been higher than White Americans’.
Two recent articles from AARP have sought to bring attention to the issue and find a solution. While there are many facets to this inequality, there are also many steps our country can take to combat it.
Inequity in Healthcare Isn’t New
COVID-19 is far from the only issue that disproportionately affects Black and other minority communities. It’s just the latest in a long trend of illnesses and diseases that are caused by underlying problems with our medical system.
A Lack of Access to the Healthcare System
Healthcare is expensive in America and it’s linked to employment, two factors that make it harder for disadvantaged communities to access routine treatments like check-ups and flu vaccinations. The pandemic has devastated many families financially as businesses laid off workers either temporarily or permanently. This loss disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic Americans, compounding the issue of these groups not being able to access healthcare as readily as the average White American.
Additionally, healthcare must be physically accessible. Many jobs do not allow workers the flexibility needed to travel across town for an appointment, which makes it that much harder for individuals to receive care when they do not have a clinic close to their homes or workplaces.
A Long History of Medical Racism
Between early scientific studies that used an all-White subject group to egregious violations of Black patients’ rights, it’s easy to show a pattern of a healthcare system that values some lives over others. However, Black people don’t need to know about such historical malpractice to come to the conclusion they aren’t receiving the care they deserve: Many of them have experienced racism firsthand from medical care providers.
This has led to an understandably lower level of trust in the medical system among Black Americans. Pervasive disinformation and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccines have further skewed patient opinions. Black Americans are more likely than White Americans to want to “wait and see” whether the vaccine is safe, with around 2 in 3 displaying some reluctance to receive the vaccine. This means the disparity in infections and fatalities may rise in the upcoming months.
A New Initiative for Vaccine Equity
These problems have not gone unnoticed by Black leaders, and thankfully, people are listening. AARP recently announced it would be joining five other nonprofits to oversee increased vaccine outreach, education, and access for Black Americans. The reason? These organizations all have Black CEOs, who are more likely to be in tune with the way race has affected COVID-19 risk. Crucially, the campaign will work with leaders and organizations within the Black community that are already trusted and can reach people who may not be engaged by other methods.
We applaud AARP and its partner organizations for stepping up to make a difference regarding vaccine equity. This problem will not go away without a focused and sustained effort and, but with six major groups working together, we have hope the rate of vaccination among Black Americans will increase within the next few months. After all, widespread vaccination is our best hope for seeing the risk of COVID-19 recede.
Brown & Barron, LLC handles medical malpractice cases in and around Baltimore. Call us at (410) 698-1717 for a free consultation if you believe you may have a claim.