We Need an Equitable Vaccine Rollout
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit communities of color in Massachusetts--communities already facing the brunt of crises of housing insecurity, economic inequality, and over-policing--- especially hard. Diverse cities like Lawrence, Revere, Chelsea Fall River, Everett, Lynn, and Lowell have seen the highest number of cases per 10,000 people, with Chelsea seeing a stunning rate of 530 confirmed COVID cases per 10,000 people during the first wave (Yes, that means just more than 1 in every 20).
Due to comorbidities that stem from underlying health inequalities, Black and Latinx residents of MA had a death rate three times that of white residents, when adjusted for age. Overcrowded housing was one of the strongest predictors of COVID-19 rates, and -- unsurprisingly -- the COVID cases per capita declines as a community gets wealthier.
The vaccine rollout--characterized by technological failures, logistical confusion, and oversight after oversight--has compounded this inequity, as the rates at which communities of color have been vaccinated has been far less than their rate of hospitalization due to COVID.
The Vaccine Equity bill (SD.699 / HD.1283), filed by Senators Becca Rausch and Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representatives Liz Miranda and Mindy Domb, would ensure that equity is prioritized in the vaccine rollout in Massachusetts, recognizing that we can only have a successful recovery if it is an equitable one.
In particular, the bill would require the Governor to do the following:
Appoint an Equity & Outreach Director whose sole focus will be addressing disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates rooted in racism, mistrust of government, and differential access to information, transportation, and other resources.
Sustain a multilingual mass media public information campaign aimed at reaching the hardest-hit communities and get vaccination information & support directly to people in the hardest-hit communities through partnerships with local organizations for outreach campaigns via phone calls, text messages, door-to-door canvassing, and other means
Create a mobile vaccination program designated to reach communities with the highest rates of COVID-19 test positivity
Extend no-cost, no-appointment Stop the Spread testing sites to all Gateway Cities
Regularly track and report on data related to implementation and health disparities