Rep. Pressley Urges Gov. Baker to Step Up Vaccination Efforts in Black and Brown Communities
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to Governor Charlie Baker calling on him to center the health and safety of Black and Brown communities in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response and ongoing vaccination deployment plans. The letter follows troubling reports of growing racial disparities in vaccination and vaccine access across the state.
“Despite the fact that we continue to see record spikes in cases across the Commonwealth, I remain gravely concerned that your administration’s vaccination and response plans continue to fall short of serving the needs of the communities most impacted, including those in my Congressional district,” the Congresswoman wrote.
According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Massachusetts ranks 29th in the nation for vaccine deployment, while data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows that Black and Latinx residents make up less than 3% and 4% respectively of those who have been vaccinated thus far compared to 60% of white residents. An analysis by the Boston Globe this week found that fewer than 15 percent of Black residents and 25 percent of Latinx residents live in census tracts that are within 1 mile of a vaccination site, compared with nearly 46 percent of white residents, pointing to stark disparities in vaccine access. Research has also shown that the medical community’s past breaches of trust with Black and brown communities are impacting the vaccine and rollout process, with nearly one-third of Black residents and nearly one-quarter of Latinx residents across the Commonwealth not having plans to take the COVID-19 vaccine at all, including nearly half of Black residents and one in four Latinx residents living in Boston.
In her letter, Congresswoman Pressley urged the Governor to update the state’s vaccine deployment plan to address these glaring inequities and called on him to do more to build trust and ensure that the Black and Latinx communities that have borne the disproportionate brunt of this crisis are able to access the vaccine and feel safe doing so. Specifically, the Congresswoman recommended the Governor take the following actions:
- Commit to prioritizing hot spot communities in early phases of vaccine deployment;
- Begin building out robust community-centered programs to begin delivering and administering vaccines in hot spot communities;
- Partner with and invest in Community Health Centers throughout the Commonwealth to ensure that vaccination sites and culturally competent care is accessible in the hardest to reach communities; and
- Launch a public awareness campaign in partnership with trusted medical professionals and community voices to dispel misinformation about the vaccine and build trust in Black and brown communities.
“It is absolutely vital that policymakers at all levels of government heed the calls of the communities most impacted by this pandemic and the public health experts that are fighting this virus on the frontlines,” Congresswoman Pressley continued in her letter. “I stand ready to partner in any way to ensure our hardest hit communities are able to access the lifesaving resources and vaccinations necessary to combat this unprecedented pandemic.”
The Congresswoman also highlighted President Biden’s executive order to ensure an equitable pandemic response and recovery, which reflects several provisions championed by the Congresswoman and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and committed to continuing to push at the federal level for States and municipalities to have the resources necessary to equitably combat the pandemic.
From the onset of the pandemic, Congresswoman Pressley has led efforts in Congress to ensure an equitable response to the pandemic that addresses existing racial disparities in the United States.
- In April 2020, she and Senator Warren led their colleagues in introducing the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure on COVID-19 Act, legislation to require the federal government to collect and publicly release racial and other demographic data on COVID-19. The bill also would establish an inter-agency commission to make recommendations in real time on improving data collection and transparency and responding equitably to this crisis. Aspects of the legislation were included in an COVID-19 relief package signed into law later that month.
- In April 2020, Rep. Pressley urged Governor Baker to rescind the Commonwealth’s proposed Crisis of Care Standards that would have disproportionately harmed Black and Brown communities and the disability community.
- In March, Pressley urged HHS to collect racial and ethnic demographic data on testing and treatment for COVID-19 to identify and address racial disparities.
- Congresswoman Pressley also sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calling on the agency to immediately release racial and ethnic data of Medicare beneficiaries who are tested or hospitalized for COVID-19.
- Congresswoman Pressley has also written to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking for HHS's report on the administration's efforts to address racial disparities in health care access and outcomes, as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- At the request of Congresswoman Pressley, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed to investigate how COVID-19 relief funds have been distributed to disproportionately affected communities.
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