Across the United States, Black and Hispanic people have contracted COVID-19 and died at disproportionately high rates, and yet they receive a smaller share of vaccinations compared to their share of the total population. Heart to Heart International’s vaccine efforts are designed specifically to ensure that marginalized groups have access to the vaccine and aims to ensure equitable distribution.
So far, the individuals vaccinated at HHI events are more diverse than the national trend and instead mirror the demographics of Kansas City. From the data reported at a national level, two thirds of the people who have received the vaccine are white, 9% were Hispanic and 8% were Black. At HHI events, 28% of our vaccines have been administered to people who reported their ethnicity as Black, and 10% who reported as Hispanic or of Latinx decent. Kansas City’s demographics show 23% of the population is Black, 6% Hispanic.
“Our approach is important because we believe it’s not enough to put on vaccination events,” Joan Kelly, Director of Impact, Heart to Heart International, said. “Our mission compels us to remove barriers to health. There are numerous systemic and structural barriers that have lead to minority groups being disproportionately harmed by COVID-19, so a lot of our vaccination efforts are focused on ensuring those groups have access to the greatest defense against COVID-19 – a safe and effective vaccine.”
These efforts complement HHI’s work removing barriers experienced by other vulnerable groups, including the digital divide and transportation issues acutely felt by older community members. HHI has had on-site vaccination events at a low-income housing facilities for senior community members and has ongoing community partnerships to bring vaccines to individuals who are unhoused or experiencing homelessness. Ultimately, the goal of HHI’s work in vaccine distribution is to ensure equitable access regardless of what barriers might exist.