Health

If you thought Phase 1 of vaccine rollout is slow, wait until you hear concerns about Phase 2

BOSTON — So far the Biden administration has had a different approach than the Trump administration in dealing with the vaccine and health care workers are taking notice.

“It’s welcome because it is science-based. It’s welcome because we will be rejoining the World Health Organization,” said Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association. “It’s welcomed because there is going to be leadership around some national policies in terms of mask-wearing, in terms of availability of PPE. It’s also really welcome news because they have already named incredibly strong leaders, something that’s been sorely lacking.”

Along with leaders, President Joe Biden also announced plans to increase vaccine supply while maximizing state and federal cooperation.

“We directed FEMA to establish a covid response liaison for each state,” said Biden.

While that guidance from the federal level is good, they say there are still some concerns with the rollout on the state level especially as we look ahead with goals of reaching immunity. Gov. Charlie Baker announced everyone in the first phase of the vaccine distribution plan is now eligible to get their first dose, and as slow as Phase 1 has been, there are major concerns Phase 2 will be even more complicated.

“They are just beginning to turn their attention to Phase 2. The problem is that you cannot begin this kind of building trust with and in communities of color the day that you expect people to get in line for the vaccine,” said Pavlos. “So we are really concerned that we’re already behind where we need to be in making the progress for building trust in communities where the rates of vaccine hesitancy are the highest and where the highest rates of infection are. That vaccine hesitancy is rooted in historical and ongoing systemic racism. It’s earned distrust.”

The Massachusetts Public Health Association says it wants to see is consistent transparency good or bad to build trust with minority communities.

“It’s important to track vaccine by race and ethnicity to know whether we’re making, we’re reaching the people who have been hardest hit,” said Pavlos. “The problem is that we’re seeing that data reported just in straight numbers and straight counts and it doesn’t help us understand whether they’re proportionally reaching communities of color if we were equitably reaching all of those populations, so there are no benchmarks. The Baker Administration is intending for 20% of vaccines to go to these communities that are hardest hit. But we are concerned because we haven’t seen details on that plan or on how the timing is going to be and most importantly we haven’t seen any detail about how the administration is going to reach out to Community Partners that are trusted by communities of color to help educate those communities.”

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