A few months back, everyone was clamoring for a COVID-19 vaccine. Several companies upped the ante in their research campaigns, trying to find the right formula to beat this stubborn virus. And then, our knight in shining armor finally came around. Of course, I’m talking of the vaccine! Many scientists didn’t even expect it to be ready till later this year, but here we are.
However, as it seems, we were so caught up in making a vaccine that we neglected what is perhaps even more important – distributing the vaccine. The past weeks of vaccine distribution have been rocky, to say the least.
First, many states had no idea of how to distribute the vaccines at all. Some of these states had a surplus of vaccines, while in other parts of the country, some states with good distribution strategies had little vaccine to share. Then, some members of the public started opposing the vaccine. What makes this even worse is the reasons for the opposition were mostly comical.
One of the other major problems, the one I will focus on in this article, is the disparity in vaccine distribution across different populations. Let me get straight to it, certain groups in the country were neglected in the vaccination stage. I’m sure you have a not-so-vague idea of the groups affected. But to be perfectly clear, Black Americans, Latinos, and Asians.
If you’re familiar with history, you will know these populations have always been at the bottom of the chain regarding health benefits and grants. But even in a pandemic? Yes, even in a pandemic. We all have a common enemy in the country, but some groups are put in worse positions at fighting that enemy. It makes no sense.
As of a few days ago, NJ stated that it had distributed over 1.2 million vaccine doses. But that’s not the fun part. Of the distributed vaccines, 51% have been to Whites, and 15% have been given to Asians, Hispanics, and Blacks. No, not 15% each to these underserved populations, 15% in total, at 6%, 5%, and 4% respectively. This is simply unacceptable.
The governor has recently come out to state that vaccination of these underserved communities will be ramped up, but it shouldn’t even have come to this at all. There should have been adequate preparations to ensure that the distribution of the vaccine is fair. But that wasn’t done. And knowing our healthcare system, I can’t exactly say I’m surprised.
To be fair, this isn’t all on them. Undoubtedly, they should have prepared themselves better, but one of the main issues is the nature of the vaccine. Many of these underserved groups are in rural or semi-rural areas. And both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine need to be refrigerated for proper storage. Transporting them to many of these regions wouldn’t have been easy. But, again, this could and should have been dealt with.
The governor has made promises, and I hope the state comes through on them because, otherwise, the results will be devastating. These underserved populations always come last in almost all aspects, and it’s only a matter of time before conflicts or even riots start.
And looking at an even more pressing issue – people are dying. Like, people are dying right now. You only need to visit the clinics. It comes as little surprise that the government is securing as many vaccines as possible, with 300 million vaccines going to come through in the next few months.
Yes, I know, 300 million is a lot. But the good thing about this is we don’t have to vaccinate everyone in the US to beat the virus; we just need to vaccinate enough people. I’m talking about herd immunity. And to properly achieve this, we need to vaccinate people from all groups and regions. That’s our only shot at beating the virus right now.
This applies to other states, too, not just NJ. Enough is enough. I’m confident we will eventually beat this virus, but what I’m unsure of is how many more lives will go before that happens. I hope very little, but we’re not heading in the right direction. Something needs to be done immediately. Let’s hope it will.
This article was written by Dr. Adil Manzoor DO, a Board Certified Internist & Board Eligible Pediatrician, who works as a Hospitalist, and Emergency Room Physician. He is also the current President of Garden State Street Medicine, a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide free preventive and acute urgent care services for the homeless. He is also the co-founder of his own unique medical practice Mobile Medicine NJ.