Student Opinion: Examining Racial Disparities in Vaccine Distribution

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(Reuters)

By Liam Benedict

At this point, there is perhaps no desire more commonly shared among the American people than for the current pandemic to end. It has been a long, brutal struggle, bringing uncomfortable change to almost every citizen. I certainly know I have felt it. 

But now there is an earnest hope that the pandemic will finally end: The successful development of a vaccine. For many, this is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, the vaccine rollout has shown a lack of proper federal oversight on the part of the Trump Administration. And although President Biden has continued to step up vaccine rollout and disbursement, it is still unsatisfactory. 

On top of this, some people have begun to question which groups should be getting the vaccine first and in what order. Recently, certain people have been emphasizing racial groupings, specifically concerning Latinos. However, if you examine the issue thoroughly, you’ll see that there are specific reasons for the vaccine rollout being the way it is and that this issue is not as big as it seems. 

A recent article by the Davis Enterprise reflects the concerns that some people have, pointing out that “[l]atinos make up about 32 percent of Yolo County’s population but through Monday had received just 11 percent of the COVID-19 vaccines distributed.” Despite this, Latinos still make up 41 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in Yolo County. 

The Davis Enterprise notes that this trend is also reflected across the state, reporting that “[l]atinos make up 39 percent of the state’s population but account for 55 percent of cases and 46 percent of deaths. Yet they have received just 16 percent of vaccine doses given thus far.” Meanwhile, white Californians, who comprise 36.5 percent of the state population, account for 20 percent of cases and about 32 percent of deaths, have received 32.7 percent of vaccines given.

However, there are other reasons why these disparities exist, rather than a lack of vaccine equity. 

For one thing, it has been well documented that older Latinos and African Americans tend to have a strong distrust of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is likely based on the terrible treatment minorities faced in the past with the healthcare industry. 

Studies have found that “86% of Latinos and 93% of Black people said they would not want to receive a vaccine as soon as possible,” a sentiment shared in smaller quantities by other ethnicities in the United States. Additionally, separate studies found that “86% of Black people and 66% of Latinos do not believe the vaccine will be safe.” 

For another thing, the vaccination priorities and the reasoning for them have been relatively straightforward. Their primary priority is vaccinating those in the healthcare field and then helping those between ages 50-75, going down and becoming more widely available from there––successfully achieving these goals would prevent a massive amount of deaths. 

It is also relevant to mention that in the state of California, the Latino population on average tends to be younger than other ethnicities, with the Caucus confirming that “[o]nly 7 percent of the Latino population is older than 64, while 18 percent of the non-Latino population is older than 64.” This would mean that the majority of Latinos in Yolo County and the rest of California would not yet be eligible for the vaccine. 

Ultimately, I can understand where the criticism is coming from. As someone who is himself right near the bottom of the vaccine dispersal list, I know the desire for wider-reaching vaccine availability.

It needs to be better, and it also needs to be the most crucial priority of the current administration. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that the current racial inequities in vaccine disbursement are by design. 

Liam Benedict is a first-year English major from the small town of Galt, California. He is a writer and is planning on becoming a lawyer in the future.


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