RALEIGH (March 1, 2021) — As North Carolina enters phase 3 of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution, one shortcoming remains especially pronounced: the inequitable distribution of shots. While Black residents make up 22 percent of the state’s population, they only received only 15 percent of North Carolina’s first phase of vaccine doses and just 11 percent of the second round.
This unequal distribution of vaccinations is explored in “Equity, North Carolina and the Vaccine,” a new report by the Health Advocacy Project of the North Carolina Justice Center, which examines the state’s racial gap in COVID-19 vaccinations against the ongoing impacts of racism and white supremacy within our healthcare systems.
“Whether it is disparate COVID-19 outcomes due to pre-existing conditions or race-based vaccination disparity, the foundations of both phenomena are rooted in an ideology that assumes some Americans are disposable while others are valued,” said William Munn, PhD, Senior Policy Analyst with the Health Advocacy Project and author of the report. “Only after this dogma is thoroughly removed from the bedrock of American policymaking will we be able to take real steps toward reforming our healthcare system, finally addressing the inequities that have cultivated harm, and beginning the process of repairing trust between North Carolina’s Black community and the leaders charged with delivering equitable quality of life outcomes.”
In the report, Munn interviews eight Black residents from southeastern North Carolina, central North Carolina, and the Piedmont about their individual experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their testimonials speak to a range of concerns, including an absence of infrastructure, historic underinvestment, and skepticism of the Trump Administration’s fast-tracked vaccine development. Each of the respondents knew several individuals who have contracted COVID-19, and those whom respondents knew had died of the virus were overwhelmingly people of color.
Audio segments capture and portray different emotions among interviewees about the COVID-19 vaccine, from fearful to hopeful. The connecting thread among respondents is the way their lived experiences and answers have been shaped by decades of racial animus or racially indifferent federal and state-level policy choices. The report connects this legacy of harmful policy decisions with the pervasive discrimination and neglect of the Black community in our healthcare system presently.