As Vaccine Rollout Continues, More Hurdles Remain in the Way of Equity

Access issues, language barriers and vaccine hesitancy are among the roadblocks that have led to racial inequities in coronavirus vaccinations

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As more and more people get the vaccine across Massachusetts, issues with equity still remain.

Access issues, language barriers and vaccine hesitancy continue to lead to inequities when it comes to getting people of color vaccinated in some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic.



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"They run out, they don't have enough, you know, people are not getting it," said Willie Brown of Worcester.

"If I had to do it here on the computer, I wouldn't be able to do it. I wouldn't get any appointments or anything," said Priscilla Gains, who recently moved to central Massachusetts from Delaware after being vaccinated there.

"It's messy and we need to improve it and it needs to get better, but there's a lot of good intentions," said Hilda Ramirez, executive director of the Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University.

Ramirez is among more than 50 diverse members of Worcester's COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force trying to improve that access.

Racial disparities in who has received the coronavirus vaccine are continuing to raise concerns.

"We have some health ambassadors out there, college students and other staff that are bringing information to the community daily and are supporting the efforts on the ground," said Ramirez.

She praises UMass for its mobile vaccination efforts at places like St. Joan of Arc Church, bringing the vaccine to the people who need it the most with the help of community members they trust.

"When the priest at Joan of Arc is sending out that message and knows the people who can qualify for a vaccine, that really makes a difference," said Jim Leary, vice president of government and community relations for UMass Memorial Health Care.

Leary says they've also found by opening up about 40% of the vaccine supply they get from the state at the Mercantile Center, there's better access for people unwilling or unable to travel to a mass vax site.

"It's centrally located, so it's very close to the WRTA bus hub," said Leary, "and also by virtue of it being downtown, it's closer to a lot of the neighborhoods."

Leary says the increased vaccine supply promised by the federal government should help the city increase the doses available to the public at places that are easier to access, like the Mercantile Center.

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