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COVID vaccination disproportionately leaving behind people of color — Levine

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New York City council member and chair of the health committee Mark Levine has said there are alarming signs the COVID-19 vaccination in the city is disproportionately leaving behind people of color.

Levine, who is the representative of the 7th district, which represents Washington Heights, West Harlem and the Upper West Side, said data on the racial breakdown of vaccinations needs to be availed.

"And we need to take action now to fix yet another egregious case of inequality in this pandemic. There is mounting anecdotal evidence of serious racial inequality in NYC's vaccination program. But we need to see the data," tweeted Levine on Friday. 

We need the city to immediately release, on a daily basis, vaccination data broken down by: race/ethnicity, geography, age, profession. Back in Dec @uche_blackstock and I warned of the dangers of a vaccine rollout that failed to advance equity for black communities & other communities of color. It now appears these fears are being realized. We must act decisively to right this ship."

And responding to Levine's Twitter thread when he appeared Live on the Brian Lehrer Show, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed with the council member's observation.

"But before his request, we already said yesterday, we're organizing that data and are going to put it out through our Health Department. This was a question actually at yesterday morning’s press conference. And I said, of course we want to be transparent because we want to drive an equity-based approach," mayor de Blasio said. 

And I want the transparency to keep everyone honest. And Commissioner Chokshi said Health Department is organizing that now. We'll put it out publicly. But the bigger point – I agree with Mark Levine on the bigger point."

Mayor de Blasio however, said there was some tremendous amount of hesitancy and mistrust, particularly in communities of color about the vaccine after the horrible history in the country and in the medical community regarding the experimentation on people of color and misuse of science. 

"And just general distrust of government, which who can blame anyone for feeling? We need to reach especially deeply into the communities that were hit hardest by the coronavirus and simultaneously have the highest levels of mistrust," he said.

"The way to do that is getting ever more local. Bringing in community groups that people trust and community leaders that people know. Speaking the language of the community. Sites right there in their immediate neighborhood. If this gets reduced to a small number of sites in places that are only being reached by folks who are already privileged, it's the exact opposite of what we need." 

Mayor de Blasio said part of the reason why the city had started doing vaccinations in public housing developments directly was to really encourage the people who need the help the most to get it. 

"And to make it as accessible as possible, answer people's real questions and concerns. Again, have community leaders right there, clergy right there, you know, folks who are trusted," mayor de Blasio said. 

"I think when we do that kind of approach where we're bringing the vaccine to people in every sense. And engaging them and really making sure that folks who are in the greatest danger, where did people die the most? Let's be, it's just such a painful reality, but let's be honest about it. People passed away disproportionately in lower income communities of color and immigrant communities. 

"The dangers still exist in those communities. And that's where we need to vaccinate the most. So, having the sites in the communities and the appointments, actually the virtue of appointments is you can really help make sure it is folks from the surrounding community who are in the greatest need and the greatest danger."

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