After the Dallas County Commissioners Court opted to prioritize Black, Latino, and other vulnerable communities in vaccination distribution, the state of Texas threatened to pull vaccines from the county altogether.
A Thursday report by the Texas Tribune revealed the Commissioners identified 11 priority zip codes for those who meet the state’s vaccinations eligibility. The zip codes represented the most vulnerable to COVID-19 including Black and Latino neighborhoods.
Upon learning, Texas state officials threatened to pull the county’s entire supply leading the county to abandon the new equity plan.
According to the Dallas Morning News, data released by the county showed most of the vaccinations to date have gone to people in primarily white, wealthy neighborhoods. Even the Fair Park vaccination site, located within the 11 zip code target area, had vaccinated more people from outside the area than surrounding communities.
Black and Latino communities have borne the brunt of the pandemic since the beginning and now disparities in testing and vaccination distribution raise concerns of racial equity. Data reviewed by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) showed Black and Latino people received vaccinations at a smaller rate than their share of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Information provided by the state of Texas revealed Black people only make up 7.6 percent of those vaccinated, but account for 18.6 percent of COVID-19 cases and 9.7 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
When inequity is baked into the system: Texas' designated COVID-19 vaccination sites — mostly hospitals, clinics, nursing homes & pharmacies — are concentrated in more affluent areas where those facilities tend to be located. https://t.co/tC1fxX8RtJ via @jpgarnham & @MandiCai pic.twitter.com/k6QxVuUX1o
— Alexa Ura (@alexazura) January 13, 2021
Last month the KFF released a report emphasizing the need for equity considerations in the vaccine distribution process. “The data and research also suggest that it will be important for providers, officials, and institutions to proactively work to earn trust with individuals and communities and directly address safety and other concerns, recognizing historic and ongoing racism and discrimination within the health care system and that some people may not want to be prioritized to receive the vaccine when it initially becomes available,” reads the report.
Barriers to access, including lack of health insurance, coupled with discrimination within the health care system is an ongoing problem. But addressing these issues should not fall on the shoulders of underserved communities. Instead medical and public health officials should burden the heavy lifting in order to provide better care for the communities they routinely fail.