Following the approval of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, elected officials have been hard at work to get people around the country immunized. While qualifying to get a vaccine is a difficult feat regardless of the state you live in, minorities across the country are being vaccinated at much lower rates compared to their White counterparts.
According to data found from a CNN analysis, White Americans were found to be the race with the highest number of people vaccinated at 4%. This is compared to the 1.7% of Black Americans and the 1.4% of Hispanic Americans who have been vaccinated.
In 2020, the CDC found that Black Americans and Hispanic Americans are almost three times as likely to die from the COVID-19 virus compared to White Americans. This speaks to a greater societal issue: racial disparities affecting minorities in many aspects of their lives, particularly in healthcare.
With little to no national approaches on vaccine distribution, state leaders have taken on the distribution of the COVID-19 shots. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis faced recent criticism after signing an executive order announcing a partnership with the Florida Department of Health and Publix to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Publix pharmacies in 15 counties will carry the vaccines.
The order, signed on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, granted the grocery store chain access to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to increase vaccinations and put Florida’s seniors first, I’m pleased to announce this innovative partnership with Publix,” DeSantis said in a press conference held in Ocala, Florida. “At the end of the day, we are all in this together, and the state of Florida thanks Publix for their willingness to step up and lend their infrastructure to this critical cause.”
While many felt that DeSantis was taking a great step in the right direction, some residents felt otherwise. Many believe that access to a Publix is scarce in low-income and urban areas, affecting many minorities who live in those areas.
For example, residents of Belle Glade, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Florida, have to travel around 25 miles for the nearest Publix pharmacy in the nearby city of Loxahatchee. This situation is common in many low-income Black and Hispanic neighborhoods all over the state. As of Jan. 28, the state of Florida has administered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 847,549 white Americans and 61,731 to Black Americans.
DeSantis continues to face criticism after many discovered that Publix would distribute the first vaccines to traditionally Republican-voting counties. This pushed many Florida residents to question whether DeSantis was using his role in the vaccine roll out as a political opportunity to support his political base.