Biden administration promises equitable vaccine access to Black and brown communities

Registered nurse La Tanya Forbes, right, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at Memorial Healthcare System, December 14, 2020, in Miramar, FL. By Nicquel Terry Ellis, CNN

(CNN) -- President-elect Joe Biden and his administration vow to ensure Black and brown people get equal access to the Covid-19 vaccine through mobile clinics, vaccination centers and partnerships with local communities, the chair of Biden's Covid-19 Equity Task Force said during a Black clergy event on Monday.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said in Biden's first month of office, he will roll out an ambitious national vaccination strategy with the hopes of combating concerns with vaccine access and hesitancy among people of color who are dying from the virus at higher rates.

Nunez-Smith, who spoke during a virtual event hosted by Choose Healthy Life -- a group of prominent Black pastors working to combat the pandemic's impact on Black people -- said the administration is committed to helping Black and brown communities overcome the "structural barriers" that could prevent people from getting vaccinated.

Many of these challenges were exposed when Covid-19 testing was rolled out last year and there were not adequate tests or resources for urban communities, Nunez-Smith said.

Biden is working to prevent this with the vaccine rollout, she added.

"This is a national emergency, and we need to treat it like one," Nunez-Smith said. "We need equitable access to testing, treatments and vaccines."

Biden's five-point plan includes putting federally supported vaccination centers in high-risk neighborhoods, setting up mobile vaccination sites in medically underserved areas, administering the vaccine at independent pharmacies, partnering with community health centers and ensuring high risk facilities such as jails and homeless shelters have access to the vaccine.

The vaccine will be free of charge at these locations, Nunez-Smith said.

Biden said Friday that he would ensure the vaccination sites were developed "equitably."

"We are going to make sure there are vaccination centers in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, in Black and Latino communities and rural communities as well," Biden said.

Nunez-Smith said the administration will also work with "trusted messengers" such as the Black pastors in Choose Healthy Life to build trust in the vaccine. The role of the Black church will be critical because data shows Black Americans are currently receiving Covid-19 vaccinations at dramatically lower rates than White Americans, she said.

"Access issues and mistrust are leaving Black health care workers behind," Nunez-Smith said. "We know there will be similar challenges across the broader population."

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