New York’s Quest for Vaccine Equity Created More Inequity

Each month, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, JD sends a friendly newsletter to New York physicians. You may have heard about him. He is under federal justice department investigation for ordering nursing homes to accept covid infected patients, and then covering up the number of nursing home deaths at the behest of Gov. Cuomo. Despite his lack of credibility, Dr. Zucker persists in telling us what to do. And like his boss the Governor, Dr. Zucker thinks his performance has been stellar. Take the vaccine rollout for example. February’s newsletter expounds on his great plan:

New York State began COVID vaccinations with the counsel of a Vaccine Equity Task Force. This month I’d like to discuss how we can work to remove doubts about vaccination among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) New Yorkers. We quickly learned that we needed to take intentional and culturally responsive steps to reach BIPOC New Yorkers. One approach is to open mass vaccination sites in BIPOC communities: The Armory in Upper Manhattan, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, York College in Queens, and Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Making sure that historically underserved communities have easy access to the vaccine is a great idea, but there’s one big problem. New York’s plan only made the situation worse. As reported by Bloomberg news article New York City Initial Vaccine Data Show Deep Race Disparity ,”The lowest ratio was among Black residents — even though they make up almost a quarter of the city’s population, they only accounted for 11% of those vaccinated.”

Who could have predicted that not sending vaccines to community physicians and pharmacies, but rather requiring citizens to use a complicated computer sign-up system and requiring them to travel distances to stand on line out in the cold would dissuade many people? It may seem exciting to mobilize the national guard at re-purposed sports arenas, but each flu season we vaccinate 3 million people a day without fanfare or military intervention. 

This episode not only illustrates the general rule that central government planning usually has the opposite of the desired effect, but it also exposes how out of touch our rulers are. They may not have realized that we already have an existing infrastructure to vaccinate people, but they were able to identify 9 different genders to put on the official vaccine registration form. So, I guess that counts as progress.

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