Will BIPOC have the same access problems to booster shots as with the vaccine?

Will BIPOC have the same access problems to booster shots as with the vaccine?

Inequality and lack of access for BIPOC

For communities with an underlying distrust of the health care system due to disparate treatment and systemic inequalities, getting a booster shot is especially important. Black, Indigenous and Latinx people are significantly more likely to become infected and die from COVID-19. Despite being disproportionately affected by the virus, misinformation, lack of access to the vaccine and hesitation about vaccines were some of the factors responsible for the slowdown in vaccination rates among people of color. Health organizations, ad companies, local communities and other officials worked together to help fight these hurdles and assure hesitant communities that the vaccine is safe and necessary. Vaccination rates for black and brown people climbed In recent months, but now that boosters are available, communities and organizations are not giving up the battle for access.

One of the major hurdles during the vaccine rollout was lack of access in certain communities. The eligibility criteria for the vaccines were initially stricter than for the booster shots, and accessibility issues for BIPOC allowed some more privileged groups to cross the line and access the vaccine. Many essential workers besides educators and doctors had to wait while richer white citizens got a chance first, even if they didn’t qualify.

Because of these issues, health professionals are: encourage people to wait for a booster shot if they are not part of a vulnerable group. And just like the vaccines, in some places like: Colorado, the number of white booster shot recipients exceeds the number of black and brown people.

Currently, 57% of the US population is fully vaccinated. Health officials say access to booster shots shouldn’t be as difficult as getting the vaccine, and the number getting boosters is faster than those who receive their first dose.

“The structural inequalities have not completely disappeared, but they have improved dramatically,” says Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We now have vans going into communities to take pictures [and] we’ve strengthened the systems to move people and provide transportation. The community health centers in those communities now give vaccines, so they’ve increased the number of vaccinators — people who give injections. They’ve increased the number of places where people can get shots, and they’ve made the systems that give shots mobile so they can go into communities or go into those communities and get people to where they’re getting vaccinated.”

Getting the message out

Before eligible people can get their booster shots, they must first know it’s their turn. To get the message across, some health officials are taking what they’ve learned from vaccine distribution to ensure fair access for all.

Mobile efforts continue to work in local communities with the help from churches after studies found that medical professionals working with black churches “in providing COVID-19 education and vaccination could be an effective way to increase vaccine uptake in black communities.”

Pop-up clinics and mobile vaccine efforts have also removed the other major hurdle that older working-class people still face: making appointments online. While creating a local online portal seemed more efficient for some cities trying to pass vaccine information to residents, some of the websites covered were bugs, complexity and crashes, especially when vaccines were first available. Only because online portals made vaccine appointments inaccessible to many older Americans, a concern some have about the boosters.

Frank Fuentes, president of the American Hispanic Contractors Association, said technology was one of the biggest hurdles facing Latinx workers in Texas — no language barrier or hesitation — in trying to get vaccinated. The problem was that the most vulnerable working-class older people — construction workers, field workers and hospitality workers — weren’t really on social media. and could don’t navigate such technological systems nor take your time until make an appointment.

“It was embarrassing for me because it was set up as a competition,” Fuentes said. “They only had so many vaccines. Whoever was smart enough, lucky enough to get the appointment through that stupid portal, was the one who would get the vaccine.”

Technology may not be for everyone, but it can still be used to provide the right information to people online. Virtual conversations, campaigns and professional health accounts continue to promote vaccinations, while others have gifs and reshare content about boosters for social media and followers.

Because many other communities had to deal with this problem, non-health organizations such as the American Hispanic Contractors Association worked with local governments and health organizations to provide vaccines not only to their own organizations, but also to other workers, such as those in the food industry. They are still focused on these efforts when boosters become available.

“Community-based organizations are very important because: a: they are trusted messengers, and b: they know the community,” Benjamin said. “And I think quite often they provide services at times and places where traditional providers don’t.”

And while vaccine hesitancy is still an issue, Benjamin believes it’s not much of a concern for communities of color anymore, as health officials and organizations acknowledged the mistrust and worked to educate and engage with communities, raising vaccination rates.

“It’s less of a problem. It’s still there, but within the booster community, those people have gotten the injections, so it’s less likely they won’t want to get the booster,” Benjamin said.

Fortunately, there is a wider range of places to receive the booster shot as doctors’ offices, clinics and local pharmacy stores are now more experienced and equipped to dispense them.

Benjamin says that to plan a booster, people should look at how they received their first injections.

“If they got it from the health department, contact the health department. If they got it through one of the retail clinics [Walgreens, CVS]Then go get it from there,” Benjamin said. “In most cases, you just have to do what you did before: make an appointment and go in.”

Delilah Alvarado is a journalist from Austin, Texas, who covers multiple sects, including business, marginalized groups, social issues, and pop culture.

Prism is a BIPOC-run non-profit news channel that focuses on the people, places, and issues currently underreported by the national media. We are committed to producing the kind of journalism that treats Black, Indigenous and Colored people, women, the LGBTQ+ community and other unseen groups as the experts on our own experiences, our resilience and our fight for justice. Sign up for our email list to get our stories in your inbox, and ffollow us on Twitter, facebook, and Instagram.

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