New York State leaders say White House vaccine plan won't work for communities of color

Posted at 3:13 PM, Nov 01, 2020

NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York State Attorney General Letitia James joined Governor Andrew Cuomo Sunday morning on a conference call to discuss racial disparities in a COVID-19 vaccination plan proposed by the White House. National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson also joined in the discussion.

According to the attorney general and the governor, the plan would make it difficult for communities of color to access the vaccine, as it is expected to be distributed to pharmacies, clinics and doctor's offices.

Governor Cuomo says the White House Task Force held a call on the vaccination plan on Friday.

"COVID has revealed from the very beginning the underlying injustice and inequity in this society. COVID highlighted what we knew but it raised it to a point where it was obnoxious and blatant how we have disparities and inequalities," says Governor Cuomo.

"The plan put forward by his [President Trump] administration is inherently flawed and will have a disparate impact on communities of color, and we have all seen the racial fault line as a result of this pandemic. The core principle of their plan is that it will rely on the same private entities that are responsible for the flu vaccine," says AG James.

However, a WKBW analysis of a 2007 studypublished on the National Institutes of Health website about the causes of racial differences in flu vaccination rates suggests that unequal access accounted for less than two percent of the disparity. Instead, the study found that "a significant percentage of African American and Hispanic beneficiaries remain unvaccinated despite being in the providers' offices during vaccination weeks and having no stated resistance to vaccination." The study cites "missed opportunities" for medical providers to vaccinate their patients, even if the patients did not initiate the appointment for the purposes of vaccination.

Another study, published in the medical journal Risk Analysis in 2017, found that African Americans worried about the safety of the shot more than the health risks of the flu, and have general distrust of healthcare institutions.

The study found that the African Americans surveyed had "substantial trust in their personal physician related to the flu vaccine."

"Given that research tells us that minorities rely more frequently on medical than non-medical settings (workplace, drug store, grocery store) for vaccination, working with health care providers is a critical step to reducing vaccine disparities," wrote Sandra Crouse Quinne, researcher from the University of Maryland.

During Sunday's news conference, when asked if any litigation is being considered, Attorney General James says "everything is on the table."

To listen to the full briefing, click here.