Coronavirus

Ayanna Pressley: Officials must ‘earn the trust of communities of color’ for COVID-19 vaccine

"The inequities we see in our healthcare system are stark, and the research and medical community have deeply violated the trust of Black and brown people in America throughout our nation’s history."

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe, File

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As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley says officials, researchers, and medical experts have an important task before them: earning the trust of communities of color, who disproportionately face health care inequities.

In a lengthy statement Saturday, Pressley, the first and only Black member of Congress elected from Massachusetts, explained she received the first shot of the two-dose vaccine after receiving notice elected officials on Capitol Hill were eligible to receive it under a “continuity of government plan.”

“I am feeling well and encourage everyone in our community to take the first opportunity available to receive the vaccine in the weeks and months to come,” Pressley said. “I am grateful to the scientists, researchers, and frontline healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly over the last several months to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective.”

Pressley’s public disclosure comes as Black and Latino residents in Massachusetts are more hesitant to receive the coronavirus vaccine than white residents — indicative of the distrust of the government on health care issues in communities of color, a recent poll found.

The MassINC survey conducted last month of 1,180 residents found that 28 percent of Black respondents and 22 percent of Latino respondents indicated they planned to take the vaccine as soon as it was available to them, notably less than the 38 percent of white residents who responded the same way.

Pressley, who noted she has “experienced how broken our healthcare system is firsthand,” said she has remained deeply concerned about equity surrounding access to care, prevention, and treatment since the onset of the pandemic.

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“Healthcare justice is not a reality in America. The inequities we see in our healthcare system are stark, and the research and medical community have deeply violated the trust of Black and brown people in America throughout our nation’s history,” Pressley said. “It is up to our research and medical institutions, our elected officials, and our collective public health response to make amends and earn the trust of communities of color as we distribute this vaccine and rebuild.”

Read the full statement:

“Today, I received my first dose of the Pfizer COVID 19 vaccine. I am feeling well and encourage everyone in our community to take the first opportunity available to receive the vaccine in the weeks and months to come. I am grateful to the scientists, researchers, and frontline healthcare workers who have worked tirelessly over the last several months to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective.

“Candidly, I did not expect I would be able to receive the vaccine this soon. I planned to receive the vaccine at a Community Health Center in my district later in 2021. Members of Congress received notice at the end of this week from the Attending Physician that doses would be made available to us as part of a ‘continuity of government plan,’ a measure put in place during national crises. After consulting with my family and my doctor, I decided that I would move forward with this opportunity to receive the vaccine.

“As someone who has experienced how broken our healthcare system is firsthand, throughout this crisis I have been deeply concerned about equity issues in access to care, treatment and prevention. Healthcare justice is not a reality in America. The inequities we see in our healthcare system are stark, and the research and medical community have deeply violated the trust of Black and brown people in America throughout our nation’s history. It is up to our research and medical institutions, our elected officials, and our collective public health response to make amends and earn the trust of communities of color as we distribute this vaccine and rebuild.

“I will continue to fight in Washington and in Massachusetts to ensure that our frontline healthcare workers, those behind the wall, our essential workers, and the marginalized communities who have been hit hardest by this pandemic are able to access the vaccine rapidly and free of cost.

“Families in my district are hurting. This pandemic has robbed them of loved ones and changed their lives forever. I remain in Washington fighting for a COVID relief package and I won’t stop fighting until we secure real relief and a just recovery for our communities.”

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