On March 23rd, I traveled to my home state of Ohio to receive the vaccine. Though I reside in Indiana, at the time, I was still ineligible to receive the vaccine. I was able to qualify for the vaccine in Ohio. The only problem was finding a site for an appointment. I checked multiple cities throughout the state, including Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Cleveland. I found that making an appointment at Dayton’s Department of Health’s website was quick and easy. I also liked how it stated the quantity and type of vaccine given on a particular day. When I arrived at the convention center in Dayton, Ohio, I scanned my ticket and was guided to a specific area to sit. The convention center was split into four quadrants; every chair was socially distanced.
I was given a series of pamphlets about the vaccine I received and how to sign up for the CDC’s weekly check-ins. The atmosphere was calm and upbeat. Workers were dancing to the music played on the intercoms. One of the nurses shouted that it was someone’s birthday, everyone started clapping and cheering. When the nurses arrived, they asked me to verify my personal information and gave me a vaccine card. Then, I received the first dose of my vaccine in my left arm. After waiting for fifteen minutes, I was free to go. While I was waiting for my vaccine, I did notice that I was one of the few people of color receiving the vaccine on that particular day. My thought prompted me to research if the vaccine distribution across the US was genuinely equitable.
After I received the vaccination, I talked to a friend who was concerned that the vaccine she received would only last for six months. I told her that it sounded reasonable to me because they just do not know. I explained how the daily check-ins I received from the CDC made me feel like I was still a test dummy. By looking at the clinical trials, we can understand how the unknown contributes to disparities. During the US portion of the clinical trials of the vaccine I received, Pfizer, a recent study showed that people of color were largely unrepresented. Out of the 40,277 participants, only 9.8% of African Americans participated. 91.9% of the clinical trial participants were white. Why did such a small percentage of African Americans participate in the clinical trials? There are a few possibilities. First, at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, many African-Americans were hesitant to receive the vaccine. These concerns were rooted in the legacy of medical mistreatment and racism, which is an ongoing issue in the medical field. Secondly, lack of access to clinical trials could be a contributing factor to the lack of representation. For the country to develop herd immunity, the vaccination must be equitable, or it puts everyone at risk of increasing the infection rates. Thus, advocates call for a fair distribution to everyone, including people of color, immigrants, and refugees. How are states addressing these disparities? The Kaiser Family Foundation found that some states publish their vaccine distribution plans and try various outreach strategies to reach vulnerable populations. A few conditions are “allocating additional vaccine doses to enhance vaccine supplies in underserved and disproportionately affected areas”. Other states are “prioritizing vaccine appointments or eligibility for certain groups or areas”. The majority of states publish information to clarify the many questions surrounding what is in the vaccine, affordability, and access.
So is the COVID vaccine distribution genuinely equitable? The answer is complicated. However, a study showed that “African-Americans and Hispanic people are receiving smaller shares of vaccinations than the shares of cases and deaths and compared to their shares of the total population”. The study also found that “white people received a higher share of vaccinations than their share of cases and deaths and their share of the total population”. Their data shows us that Ohio has slightly vaccinated more African-Americans than in Indiana. 7% of African-Americans in Ohio have received the vaccination. 12% of the total population of African Americans have been vaccinated. In Indiana, 6% of African Americans have received the vaccination, only 9% of the total population. These percentages are drastically low when looking at the percentages of white people who have received the vaccination. In Ohio, white people received 85% of the vaccinations. 81% of the total population has been vaccinated. In Indiana, white people have received 89% percent of the vaccination. 83% of the total population has been vaccinated. With such drastic disparities in vaccine distribution, I wonder how long it will take us to reach herd immunity. Though it is disturbing, these percentages show that we must continue to push our state legislators and health departments to help rebuild the trust between people of color and the medical community. A “all hands on deck” approach is necessary to ensure that absolutely everyone has access to the coronavirus vaccine to protect us all.