In creating vaccine equity plan, the Baker administration must listen to community voices
The Vaccine Equity Now! Coalition issued a statement on Feb. 15, responding to Governor Charlie Baker’s “decision to veto the Legislature’s supplemental budget provision mandating that the state Secretary of Health and Human Services prepare and implement a ‘detailed, comprehensive’ COVID-19 vaccine equity plan. Since the coalition was formed last year, it has repeatedly called for inequities, specifically racial ones, to be addressed in the State’s vaccine rollout.
An excerpt from the statement can be found below:
“We understand the administration’s valid concern that eliminating vaccination disparities within 120 days is not achievable given how significant the disparities are,” said Vaccine Equity Now! Coalition Co-Chair Dr. Atyia Martin of Next Leadership Development, Elizabeth Sweet of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and Carlene Pavlos of the Massachusetts Public Health Association. “We agree that the building blocks needed to eliminate vaccine inequities are not yet in place in Massachusetts, so more time will be needed to achieve real equity.
“We are deeply concerned, however, that the Administration has announced that it will produce a vaccine equity plan within 30 days of the bill’s passing, without seeking significant input from the communities most impacted. The inequities in vaccination rates are occurring at the community level, and devising a plan that is not guided by the wisdom of those working on the ground will only replicate and deepen the mistakes of the past. In fact, the exclusion of community voice violates an important component of equity – procedural justice.
“When state officials tout Massachusetts’ high statewide vaccination rates using aggregate statewide data, it obscures the stark racial and geographic inequities in vaccination rates that currently exist.
“Statewide, the vaccination rates of Black and Latinx residents have lagged behind the rates of white residents. While the gap has narrowed, the most recent statewide data shows that 81 percent of white residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 74 percent of Black residents and 75 percent of Latinx residents. But when we look in more detail at individual communities, we see that vaccination rates in lower-income Gateway cities and small towns lag behind wealthy suburbs. For example, in Weston, which has a median household income of over $200,000, 89 percent of white residents have been vaccinated compared to upwards of 95 percent of Latinx, Black, and Asian residents. Whereas, in Springfield, which has a median household income of just over $39,000, 81 percent of white residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to 50 percent of Latinx residents, 59 percent of Black residents, and 70 percent of Asian residents.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.