The Vaccine Rollout Is Racist. We Can Do Something About That.

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A new coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has been approved. A new coronavirus variant in New York City has been identified—and is spreading. New data shows structural and racial disparities in who is receiving the vaccine, and who is still waiting in line. As the one year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic in the US approaches, we’re seeing a flurry of both hopeful and concerning developments. Kiera Butler and Edwin Rios, two Mother Jones reporters who have been on the pandemic beat for the past year, join host Jamilah King to provide much-needed context about what it all means.

Butler, a senior editor and public health reporter, explains that while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has lower efficacy rates than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, it is still highly effective at preventing the worst outcomes of coronavirus infections. “It prevents hospitalization and death 100 percent of the time,” she says.

While millions of vaccine dosages have been shipped out this week, and vaccination rates are on the rise, there are concerning reports of low vaccination rates among communities of color—the very the same communities disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic itself. Black, Latino and Native Americans have been dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of white Americans. Those disparities widen in younger age groups. But despite the fact that Black Americans account for 16 percent of COVID deaths, they have received just six percent of the first dose roll-out. “The pandemic exacerbates preexisting inequities,” Rios says. “It's not as if those barriers kind of the barriers to access go away when the vaccine rollout starts.” In this episode, we attempt to tackle solutions to vaccine hesitancy by putting trust at the heart of the rollout.

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