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By Andrea Shalal and Julia Harte
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Initial deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved COVID-19 vaccine should begin on Tuesday, senior Biden administration officials said on Sunday, saying they expected to increase lagged vaccination rates among minorities. . Officials acknowledged that vaccination rates among black and brown Americans “were not where we ultimately want them to be,” but said measures had been put in place to increase those numbers and sought to reassure minorities that vaccines were safe. Federal officials were also closely monitoring the distribution to ensure it was fair, they said. “Although we know that the data is not complete, we see these early patterns that suggest that black and brown Americans are being vaccinated largely at lower rates than representation in the general population,” said one of the officials.
Officials did not provide data on the disparities, but KFF, a health policy and research organization, found that people of color receive a lower proportion of vaccinations compared to their proportion of the population. In Alabama, for example, blacks account for 27% of the population and 31% of deaths from COVID-19, but only 17% of vaccines.
US officials said they respected concerns raised by some African Americans about a history of past disparities and “egregiously unethical conduct,” including the Tuskegee study in Macon County, Alabama, in which federal health officials denied the treatment of black men to study syphilis from 1932. to 1972.
But they underscored the importance that all people who were eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible could control the pandemic, saying that great efforts had been made to ensure that black and brown people were adequately represented at every stage of the vaccination process. .
“It is critical that people understand the safeguards that exist around this clinical research, but also the diversity and representation at the scientist level, at the level of policy makers and those who are reviewing this data, as well as trial participants. clinicians, “said one of the officials.
Up to 400 community vaccination centers were being set up in areas with a large minority population, and officials would use mobile units to reach more people, they said, adding that flexible hours of operation would also be critical.
“We have directed states to administer the distribution of the (three) vaccines in a fair and equitable manner, and we will continue to monitor that closely,” said a second official.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine involves only one injection, not two, and may be easier to distribute since it does not require a freezer, but federal officials said all three vaccines should be uniformly available in communities and the country. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Julia Harte; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Diane Craft)