Earlier this week, the White House unveiled its long-awaited plan for vaccinating children ages 5-11 against Covid-19. The process will begin as soon as federal health officials approve the reduced dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, which could come as soon as the first week of November.
The Biden administration secured enough doses to inoculate all 28 million children in this age group. The rollout plan includes making the reduced doses available at more than 25,000 pediatricians’ and doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, community health centers, and local clinics based in schools or communities.
According to current CDC data, about 66% of the total United States population (about 219 million people) has received a vaccination, and about 190 million are fully vaccinated.
Though part of the rollout includes a campaign to help educate parents about the vaccine, it is not clear if or how it will be tailored to the Black community. Since vaccinations became widely available, the Black population in this country has consistently been among the least vaccinated group and among the highest death rates.
Currently, only 10% of the Black population is fully vaccinated, and they make up 12% of the country’s population. The same trends are seen in the 12-17 age group. Using state-level data from September 2021, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Black children were the least vaccinated among all race/ethnicity groups in the seven states it looked at. The same study found that Black children had the second highest death rate, second to Asian children.
The education campaign is a start, but in the initial rounds of vaccinations, kids were bribed with all kinds of incentives: AirPods, gift cards, iPads, other tech gadgets, and even scholarships. Will there be the same incentives this time around to help reach another demographic group?
Of course, a major hurdle to get over are the barriers the Black community must pass to get vaccinated: access to medical facilities, transportation, education about the vaccines, and mistrust in doctors. In Sacramento, community leaders took it upon themselves to bring vaccines to the Black community.
“The neighborhoods that we serve, the under-resourced neighborhoods and people of color, have been falling behind. It’s more than the economy, it’s our health. It’s about when do we really start taking charge of our health and our lives,” Cassandra Jennings, outgoing president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, told the Sacramento Observer. “It starts with this vaccine, then we can do all the other things we want to do (to address) all the things that are killing our community faster than anybody else.”