Despite outreach, Ward 3 vaccinations still far outpace Wards 7, 8 in DC – The Washington Post – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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That’s compared to 5.4 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively, in Wards 7 and 8, the poorest parts of the city and the areas that have some of the highest death rates from covid-19.

Efforts to distribute the vaccine equitably emerged late and were underdeveloped, advocates and D.C. Council members said in interviews. Some initiatives — like lowering age eligibility or prioritizing Zip codes — unintentionally backfired, opening up a hard-to-access registration system to thousands more wealthy residents.

And while the District has ramped up efforts to target the vaccine to underserved areas, the initial rollout prioritized downtown locations and mass vaccination sites. Frustrated D.C. lawmakers say the disparity reflects a historic lack of investment in public health care for low-income communities of color, an injustice they say the city could have done far more to correct.

“As a government, you have to center your work around racial equity from the outset — if you don’t, you will be playing catch-up,” said Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who was among the first council members to criticize the city’s vaccine distribution. “And the District of Columbia, as is the case with many cities, has been playing catch-up.”

The Biden administration on Thursday pledged $10 billion to address racial disparities in vaccine distribution — including $6 billion for community health centers, which primarily serve low-income communities of color. President Biden said the funding would help reach “the hardest-hit and most vulnerable communities.”

Those are the people Lisa Fitzpatrick focuses on through Grapevine Health, the health literacy organization she founded. Fitzpatrick spends several days a month handing out literature and promoting the vaccine on the streets of Ward 7 and Ward 8. She hears from some people who don’t trust the vaccine, and from others who say they want it because they know Black people are disproportionately dying from the virus.

Many have struggled to access the shots, Fitzpatrick said, losing out to people who are more plugged in and on top of the latest developments.

“If you think about who’s getting the vaccine, it’s because convenience is not really a factor for them,” Fitzpatrick said. “They’re able to get online in a timely fashion and get the slots. They’re able to drive to wherever [appointments] are.”

The D.C. government must find more effective ways to address that issue, she and other advocates said, but at the same time it needs to get ahead of a deeper problem: As supply of the vaccine expands, and all those who want a shot can get one, health officials must convince those who are wary of vaccinations to accept them too.

Wayne Turnage, deputy mayor for health and human


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