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DWASARI: Inequality in vaccine distribution must be addressed

The vaccine, which is crucial to the livelihoods of so many, must be equitably distributed throughout all communities, not just the affluent ones.  – Photo by Flickr.com

It has been more than a year since America shut down due to the unforeseen and rapid spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Pharmaceutical companies have raced each other to create the first vaccine and highest efficacy.

Today, there are millions of doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson being spread — at disproportionate rates. Once again, the lower rates fall on Black and Latinx Americans' shoulders, but such a problem does not fall solely on the inequality in our institutions.

Black and Latinx Americans have proven to suspect the vaccine at considerably higher rates than white and Asian Americans. Their hesitance comes from a place that we have to understand.

For years, the medical establishment has mistreated people of color, using them as test subjects for inhumane experiments and undertreatment, which explains why only 42 percent of Black Americans trusted the vaccine in November 2020.

Undocumented Latinx Americans are scared for their safety within America. If they get caught by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they could be sent out of America and back to their unstable home countries while trying to get a vaccine. 

Distrust plays a significant role in the Black and Latinx turnout, but access to vaccines plays toward wealthier (primarily white and Asian) Americans. For example, a medical clinic for the poor was provided with vaccines for those 65 and over. Previously hosting mainly Black Americans, they saw an influx of white elderly people in pursuit of the vaccine.

Low-income Americans have been hit the hardest, from working jobs that require in-person interaction to being affected on the frontlines at disproportionate rates. At the same time, wealthy, white Americans flood appointments. Navigating the sign up process poses a significant disadvantage to lower-income Americans who also face the problem of limited means of transportation.  

Such a disadvantage requires America to reserve vaccine slots for the poor, which they have not done well. In Dallas, a vaccine distribution center sourced their sign up link to a poor community, primarily Black and Latinx residents.

Somehow, it ended up in the hands of North Dallas residents, and lines became flooded with white Americans. While I agree they could not turn down the people in line for their ethnicity, the turnout showed they failed the initial objective. This occurrence has prevailed across the country and played a role in the lower rates among minority communities.

America has excelled in providing more doses than expected under the Biden Administration but has done little to emphasize the vaccine's safety. Groups of people have been historically manipulated by the medical system or put at risk by government enforcers.

Simply saying "trust the science" from the president of the U.S. does not change much. All government levels need to mobilize informative campaigns to target Black and Latinx Americans, walking them through why they should trust the vaccine and providing them resources to view on their own time.

The anti-vaccination campaigns have played an effect in instilling fear, and people in fear would rather avoid taking the vaccine and dealing with the higher risks of COVID-19's effects. Initiatives like Baltimore's door-to-door vaccination should be more prevalent, since the sign ups favor those with access to multiple means of transportation and higher internet speeds, which lower-income Americans are less likely to have compared to wealthy ones. 

While the government has made a remarkable effort in giving out doses of the vaccine, it is protecting people who are already sheltered from the brunt of COVID-19's effects. The historical trend of protecting white Americans before other Americans is the story's current tale, but that needs to change before vaccine distribution permanently creates yet another prominent display of racial inequality in America.

Akhil Dwasari is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in finance and minoring in political science. His column, "Cut the Bull," runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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