Panel: More Vaccines Needed for Marylanders of Color

U.S. Sen. Van Hollen and several state leaders gathered Wednesday to discuss ways to enable more Marylanders, and in particular Marylanders of color, to become vaccinated against COVID-19.

Maryland ranks 45 out of the 50 states when it comes to getting the vaccine into people’s arms, Van Hollen said. “We are lagging well behind other states.” Also, he noted, white residents are receiving a vaccine “at a rate of two times” Black residents. Only 4% of Latinx residents have been vaccinated while they represent 11% of Maryland’s population, Van Hollen said.

Dr. Sonya Bruton, CEO and President of CCI Health & Wellness Services of Silver Spring, said her organization’s clients often have neither the technical skills to set up a vaccine appointment nor the means to drive to a vaccine center. Yet her clients are the ones who continue to work outside the home. Because most of them are not older than 65, they aren’t eligible for the vaccine.

If her patients were permitted by the state to be vaccinated, Bruton predicted her organization could have 1,000 people vaccinated in one week. She said the City of Takoma Park has said CCI could use its auditorium.

Bishop Donte Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church in Baltimore, called the government’s response to communities of color “tone deaf” even though Marylanders who are Black have suffered so much during the pandemic.

Dr. Gabriela Lemus, Executive Director, MD Latinos Unidos, said her community also was underrepresented. “Latinos feel they are largely invisible,” she said. She urged the state to hire Latinos to educate other Latinos and help them get vaccinated.

Earlier Wednesday, Van Hollen joined a bipartisan group of eight senators in a meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss how best to fight cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

“Even as we battle COVID-19, families are still facing the pain and loss that cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other devastating diseases leave in their wake,” Van Hollen said after the meeting. “Throughout COVID-19 our scientific community – backed by forces like NIH – has shown the incredible capacity of what it’s able to achieve. We must leverage that power to defeat these diseases.”

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