By Emily Drooby
People are waiting in lines for one of the country’s most precious commodities: a COVID-19 vaccine. However, vaccine distribution rates haven’t been equal.
“The vaccination rate among the Black community is still lagging,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a March 24 press conference, “the vaccination rate among the Hispanic community is still lagging.”
Twenty-eight percent of the Asian community and 26 percent of the Caucasian community have been vaccinated. That’s compared to the 15 percent of the Latino community and 14 percent of the Black community who have received their shots.
Location has also been a place where discrepancies show.
City data shows that in Manhattan, 34 percent of people have received at least one shot. But that number drops down to only 23 percent in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
The difference is stark on the northeastern side of Manhattan. In historically low-income areas, like central and east Harlem, only 12 to 15 percent are fully vaccinated. However, just 30 blocks south in the Upper East Side, those numbers jump from 26 to 31 percent.
One reason is the difficulty when it comes to scheduling an appointment. Dr. Shani Andre is the chief medical officer of The Floating Hospital, a nonprofit that provides free healthcare to those in need.
“Those that may be working from home and have the ability to spend 30 minutes every morning at 7 a.m. trying to get an appointment,” Dr. Andre said, “It’s a lot different than someone who is working in the service industry where they need to be out the door at 6 a.m. and at work at 7 and don’t have time to do that.”
Dr. Andre said adding weekend and off-hour slots at vaccinations sites helps address this issue. She also says education is crucial.
The Floating Hospital has been helping seniors get the shot. They’ve also focused their vaccine and education efforts.
“To target those populations that are either public housing, homeless or either limited English proficiency,” Dr. Andre said, “we make sure that we are offering first to those communities.”
The city is trying to address the discrepancies too, announcing community pop-up vaccination sites.
“This is why we opened in so many NYCHA Centers, churches, houses of prayer, and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, with the people from the Bronx,” said Dr. Ramon Tallaj, board chairman for SOMOS Community Care. His organization provides medical services to those in underserved communities.
Dr. Ramon was on hand as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the “Roll Up Your Sleeve” campaign. The campaign, which will launch in April, allows houses of worship to sign up to host pop-up vaccine sites. The idea for the pop-up sites is that people will be more receptive to receiving the vaccine if they feel they’re more comfortable in their own community and churches.
In order for more people to feel comfortable, SOMOS Community Care is also pushing for the state to allow community doctors with the authorization to give out vaccine shots.