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MA Groups Urge Expanding Focus on Vaccine Equity

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021   

WORCESTER, Mass. - Some groups in Massachusetts want to see more focus on getting COVID-19 vaccinations to people in underserved communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Gov. Charlie Baker's Vaccine Equity Initiative has been working with 20 of the Commonwealth's hardest-hit cities and towns to increase access to and trust in the vaccines.

Dr. Atyia Martin, spokesperson for the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition, said nearly 40% of white residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with slightly more than 25% of Black residents, roughly 27% of Asian residents and fewer than 20% of Latino residents.

"Far too many people, particularly BIPOC residents - Black, Indigenous and people of color residents and immigrants - are still facing too many difficulties when it comes to accessing the vaccine," she said.

Most of the vaccine for equity clinics has been supplied by Johnson & Johnson, because it requires only one dose. But on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended a pause on administering J&J as they review the significance of six reported cases of blood clots out of more than 6.8 million doses administered in the United States.

Gina Plata-Nino, spokesperson for the Worcester Together Coalition, said obstacles for underserved communities range from transportation - in some cities, mass vaccination sites aren't convenient by public transit - to inability to take time off work, language barriers and lack of Internet access.

"I spoke to child-care providers, drivers and many front-line workers who have helped keep our economy afloat at the cost of their health," she said. "We heard from Asian Americans who shared, 'I don't feel safe at the large vaccination sites; I'm glad I can go to a clinic in my neighborhood with people who look like me.'"

She noted that her city's equity clinics have been receiving roughly 800 doses a week - fewer than other mass vaccination sites, and not enough to fill the demand.


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