health disparities

Federal, Local, and Health Leaders Push for Vaccine Equity

NBC Universal, Inc.

Connecticut leaders are now focusing on vaccine inequities after data released by the state's Department of Public Health showed people of color were not receiving vaccines at the same rates as white people.

Health leaders along with senators Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, and Congressman John Larson held a roundtable about the racial inequities in vaccine distribution within the state.

The hour-long dialogue highlighted some of the factors as to why people of color are getting vaccinated less than others. These factors include transportation, language barriers, access to health care and information.

"If there are not systems in place prior to such an event, we're going to see the disparities across morbidity, mortality and access to the vaccine," said Dr. Reginald Eadie, president and CEO of Trinity Health of New England.

The health leaders a part of the conversation were experts who have been calling for more resources to help reach disadvantaged communities.

Health officials say getting the data about vaccine distribution in the state is the first step and leaders say their goal now is putting action behind words to get communities of color vaccinated.

"We have to open the lines especially in towns where we see high positivity rates and high death rates so that anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated," said Nichelle A. Mullins, president and CEO of Charter Oak Health Center. "We have come to realize that hesitation to get the vaccine is not a factor it's access to the resources wherein lies the problem."

New data released from DPH showed that of the nearly 12,000 Black residents who were 75 and older and eligible to receive the vaccine, only 2,248 had received the first dosage. For the Hispanic population, of the nearly 8,000 eligible to receive the vaccine, only 2,780 receive their first dosage.

In response, different cities like Hartford are putting boots on the ground to try and meet people where they are in the community.

"We've found that community health workers here in the city of Hartford at the testing sites were very helpful," said Liany Elba Arroyo, director of Health and Human Services for the City of Hartford. "What we need are those monetary resources to be able to implement and operationalize what we all have in our minds."

Health leaders also mentioned that talking to the public and having more of a community footprint could prove better results for vaccine distribution.

"We need outreach workers and we need outreach workers to be out there," said Sandra Sapere, director of the Risk Unit with the Hispanic Health Council. "We need to go the community in the ways they want to be to address and ask them and commit to them in a trustworthy manner and let them know we're going to listen to them," said Eadie.

Funding is now the primary goal of state leaders.

"We're perhaps a week from the first vote on the rescue package that's going to have significant money in it for states," said Sen. Murphy. "Our hope is that Republicans will support it but we can't wait, we need money to get these vaccines into communities of color."

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