By Ashanti Glover
After weeks of opening mass vaccination sites, more Marylanders are getting vaccinated, but at disproportionate rates. Data shows that people of color, low-income status, and older adults continue to be excluded.
Of the positive COVID-19 cases, 19% are Hispanic; yet, only 3.6% of Hispanic Marylanders are vaccinated and only 16% of blacks and 6% of Asians.
The Six Flags of America vaccination site in Prince George’s County has been vaccinating about 2,000 people daily compared to 400 a day at the Baltimore Convention Center. Lack of transportation, language barriers, internet access and computer literacy are causing this gap.
“What data shows time and time again is that the state’s methodology for distributing the vaccine is leaving behind Maryland’s most vulnerable residents,” Democratic Baltimore City Council President Nick J Mosby said.
Among these underrepresented groups, lack of transportation, language barriers, internet access and computer literacy cause this gap. There are also concerns of mistrust of health professionals and the spread of misinformation, keeping these individuals at risk.
Mariah Williams, a cashier at Sprouts grocery store, expressed her concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine saying “right now they are testing it out. I’m not saying I am not going to get it, I want to see how effective the vaccine is before taking it.” When asked if she felt at higher risk as a frontline worker she said “no, Sprouts look out for us as cahiers, they have multiple sanitization stations and vitamin packs in the break room, and only 3 people can come in at a time.”
Other frontline workers are not as secure and community advocates are pushing for access within their communities. According to a Baltimore Sun article CASA and Centro SOL are having regular meetings with the Baltimore City Health Department to gain support.
They hope to use existing community centers to assist in giving vaccines to people of color, older adults, and frontline workers. These locations have relationships with community members and are readily accessible.
The Esperanza Center, a Baltimore resource for immigrants, has changed its multilingual health hotline to answer questions about the vaccine and to help people with registration. This small shift can make a difference in getting the Latino community vaccinated.
With the launch of a designated phone line to assist with appointment registration and information, in conjunction with a one-stop preregistration web portal available in March, there is hope for an increase in vaccinations across the state.
Maryland’s acting health secretary Dennis R. Schrader said, “This is going to allow us to manage the flow of appointments, which we’re very excited about. But most importantly, we expect that establishing a preregistration system will improve the user experience and better prepare for the day when the supplies are very, very abundant.”
When a third vaccination site opened at M&T stadium on Thursday, Feb. 25, there was additional immunization to aid in the the COVID 19 crisis with possibly increasing the rate of vaccines being given to frontline workers and the elderly.
Photo Courtesy: NBC News