Velazquez Introduces Bill to Address Racial Disparities in Vaccine Distribution
Washington, DC – As the nation’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new stage with the rollout of vaccines, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced new legislation to combat vaccine hesitancy and misinformation around the vaccine, especially in communities of color. The Congresswoman’s bill, titled the Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Act of 2021 would direct the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund grants to state, local, territorial, and tribal health departments to conduct outreach on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.
“We know that in many communities of color throughout my district and this country, there exists a justifiable mistrust of vaccines,” said Velázquez. “That is why the COVID-19 vaccine rollout must include efforts to provide the public with comprehensive, culturally competent information so everyone can feel safe in receiving the vaccine. This bill will help empower health departments and organizations on the ground to do the work to achieve this goal, and I urge Congress to act swiftly to pass it into law.”
Under the new legislation, the CDC would also mandate that organizations receiving the grant to disseminate information must provide multilingual and culturally conscious messaging. The bill also works to reassure communities who have historically faced medical injustices and may be wary of the vaccine. This bill takes steps towards bridging that gap in communication and instilling confidence in these communities through transparency and public education.
“COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Black and Hispanic communities is real, so taking proactive steps to build confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective is essential to beating this pandemic,” said Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) President Kenneth E. Raske. “The hospital community applauds Congresswoman Velázquez for introducing this important legislation, which will ensure that communities of color are prioritized in public education campaigns about the COVID-19 vaccine.”
"Power 4 Puerto Rico wholeheartedly endorses the Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Act of 2021, as it would provide life-saving tools, education and resources Puerto Ricans, Latinos and other communities of color need to ensure everyone is vaccinated, whether they live in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, or one of the territories like Puerto Rico. None of us will be safe until we all are, and that is why it is critical that people of color have the information and resources they need, in their language and with cultural competency. Puerto Ricans in the US have faced disproportionately higher Covid infection and death rates. According to the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico found that 'the areas with the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths coincide with the counties with the highest proportion of Puerto Ricans in the United States.' This situation is due in part to issues this bill seeks to address," said Erica González, Director of the Power 4 Puerto Rico coalition.
“NYC Health + Hospitals is a proud supporter of Representative Velázquez’s bill that would help fund critical awareness campaigns around the COVID-19 vaccine to dismantle hesitancy experienced by some populations,” said NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz, MD. “Our city’s public hospital system has been encouraging of the vaccine since the beginning, working with communities and populations on-the-ground. However, we all understand that it’ll take time and personalized conversations with some to make them comfortable in making this decision about their body and health. NYC Health + Hospitals is committed to this work, and this bill will only further support us.”
Hispanic Federation commends Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez for recognizing the critical need for culturally and linguistically competent vaccine information campaigns to build confidence and combat misinformation in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, community-based non-profits, health centers, and grassroots organizations have been providing food, emergency rental assistance, healthcare, and other needed services to hardest hit Latino, Black, immigrant, and other communities of color,” said Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of Hispanic Federation. “These organizations have the trust of the communities they serve, speak the language of the people they work with, and should be central in efforts to educate and combat vaccine misinformation. The Vaccine Confidence Act of 2021 can help address one major factor in lagging vaccination rates – the misinformation and distrust among the most severely impacted communities. By providing desperately needed resources, the Act will empower trusted community organizations to do the work vitally needed to address both justified reasons for doubt and the misinformation rampant in vulnerable communities.”
The Building COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence Act of 2021 has been endorsed by NYC Health + Hospitals, Greater New York Hospital Association, Hispanic Federation, Power 4 Puerto Rico, Alianza for Progress, The People for Puerto Rico, Center for Popular Democracy, American Lung Association, Worker Justice Center of New York, American Association of Neurological, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Women’s Voices for the Earth, and the Global Liver Institute.
The bill has been cosponsored by Reps. Grace Meng, Salud Carbajal, Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Albio Sires, Dwight Evans, Adriano Espaillat, Alcee L. Hastings, Jahana Hayes, Mondaire Jones, Jerrold Nadler, Ritchie Torres, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Frederica S. Wilson, Marilyn Strickland, Mary Gay Scanlon, Yvette D. Clarke, and Carolyn Bourdeaux.
The text of the bill can be found here.