At this point, you’re probably tired of the phrase “Black people are disproportionately affected” when it comes to coronavirus. I know I am. Unfortunately, the last year has seen the Black community bear the brunt of the worst parts of the pandemic—be that deaths, job losses, a lack of economic relief, evictions, or the loss of small businesses. Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Monday that the Biden administration will provide $250 million in grants to organizations that are helping address some of these disparities in underrepresented communities.
According to ABC News, the grants are aimed at supporting organizations that aim to provide combat misinformation regarding coronavirus and encourage underserved communities to get vaccinated. The “Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19” initiative will be overseen by the Department of Health and Humans Services’ Office of Minority Health, and is intended to improve testing, contact tracing, and other preventative strategies by partnering with community-based organizations.
Harris announced the grants while speaking to the National League of Cities—an organization composed of leaders from thousands of cities, villages, and towns throughout the nation—in an effort to get them on board with the plan. An HHS official told ABC News that the initiative is poised to fund about 20 projects in underrepresented communities over the next two years.
From ABC News:
Harris has already been trying to reduce vaccination disparities arising from racial, cultural and socioeconomic concerns, some of which are caused by distrust of the vaccine among minorities and rural Americans alike. In December, Harris received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington, D.C., a hospital that provides services to mostly Black residents in the D.C. area with lower median incomes.
The White House and other federal agencies have held listening sessions with various groups with a focus on increasing vaccine confidence and addressing other barriers. When she was still a California senator, Harris introduced the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act of 2020.
“Our communities are dying at disproportionately high rates.” Harris said in February at a virtual roundtable with participants from local black chambers of commerce from across the country. “We’ve got to remind people that the vaccines are safe, that they will save lives.”
While vaccine distribution is still in its early stages, inequities have already emerged in terms of which communities are receiving the vaccine. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that almost twice the number of white people have been vaccinated compared to Black people. The Biden administration has called on states to provide more thorough data so that these racial equity gaps can be properly addressed.
“We’re also calling on the states to help us get the data we need to know where we are and to work with us to find creative solutions to the inequitable vaccine uptake that has already emerged in these first months of the vaccination program,” White House COVID-19 Health and Equity Task Force Chair Marcella Nunez-Smith said Monday. “I just want to be clear that achieving equity is not an aspirational goal. This is mission critical. Absent equity we will not be able to stop this pandemic from continuing to claim lives, strain our healthcare system, and weaken our economy.”