Mayor Bill de Blasio is outraged after learning that a coronavirus vaccination site in a Latino community in New York City hit hard by COVID-19 saw many White people from other areas show up to the site to get the shot.
“The more I learn about this, the angrier I get,” de Blasio said during a press briefing. “Somehow, instead of focusing on the Latino community of Washington Heights, a place that really was hit hard by Covid, instead the approach was somehow conducive to folks from outside the community coming and getting vaccinated but not folks who live right here in Washington Heights. Totally backwards.”
On Jan.14, the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo housed the vaccination site at the Armory Track & Field Center in Washington Heights. Initially, the appointments to get vaccinated were extended to people 65 and older residing in the New York state, CNN reports.
The Armory site gave the first wave of vaccines to White residents over 65 who came from other parts of the city and state, the outlet continued.
When Cuomo announced the site’s launch, he stated that the goal was “making sure New Yorkers of color aren’t left behind.”
In an email to the outlet, New York-Presbyterian said that over 80% of the residents vaccinated in the last two days were from the Washington Heights, Inwood, North and Central Harlem, and South Bronx.
“An ongoing engagement initiative is focused on reaching eligible Northern Manhattan residents and getting them registered for appointments,” the hospital said in its statement Wednesday. “This process is being undertaken in partnership with more than 40 community-based and faith-based organizations and other partners, and is focused on providing access, overcoming hesitancy and addressing persistent inequities.”
72% of the residents in communities Washington Heights and Inwood are Latino. The two areas have been designated as a hot spot for COVID-19 cases. With 37% of the resident in both communities having “limited English proficiency,” the initial sign-up process for the vaccination site does not accommodate Latinos that make up 30% of deaths in New York City.
“It’s like ‘The Hunger Games,’ “New York City Councilman Mark Levine tells CNN. “People who don’t have a computer, don’t have good internet, aren’t comfortable with technology, maybe have limited English language skills, they are not getting through. And that’s reflected in who is showing up at these sites.”
Dr. Susana Bejar of Columbia University Irving Medical Center saw firsthand the discrepancy that has taken place in Washington Heights during a volunteered service on Jan.23.
“Simply put, I’ve never seen so many White people in Washington Heights,” Bejar tweeted on Sunday.
Bejar noted that out of the 2,400 people that received the shot that day, many were not from the local areas.
She says that the site needs to make the local communities’ residents, especially those struggling to sign up for the vaccine, a priority.
“It’s hard to do both speed and equity,” Bejar added. “When the vaccines are primarily distributed through a smartphone application in English to whoever refreshes the application first, longstanding structural inequities will replicate themselves unless the medical community makes a conscious and consistent effort to address them.”