Communities of color in California have had difficulty accessing the Covid-19 vaccine and now a program designed to aid them has been misused by affluent Angelenos, the Los Angeles Times reported. In an investigation the newspaper conducted, they found that vaccine appointment codes designed for residents of underserved Black and Latinx areas were being distributed among wealthier individuals. The codes are meant to be used on the My Turn vaccine scheduling site and are provided to community organizations to distribute to communities of color. Following an inquiry from The Times last week, the state canceled appointments made with at least one of the access codes.
In all cases, the origin of the access codes remained unclear. The individuals circulating the codes were seemingly unaware that they were intended for hard-hit communities, The Times reported, apparently believing it was a pilot program open to all.
Getting the Covid-19 vaccine to vulnerable communities has been an issue since the vaccine launched in Dec. 2020. A CNN analysis spanning 14 states found vaccine coverage is twice as high among white people on average than it is among Black and Latinx people. The research, released in January, found that more than 4 percent of the white population received a Covid-19 vaccine, which is about 2.3 times higher than the Black population (1.9 percent covered) and 2.6 times higher than the Latinx population (1.8 percent covered).
Yet Black and Latinx Americans are dying at three times the rate of white people and being hospitalized at a rate four times higher, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Latinx population represents 46.3 percent of Covid-19 deaths as of Feb. 10 despite making up 38.9 percent of the state population, ABC reported. They also make up 55 percent of the state’s cases and have the greatest share of cases and deaths at every age group, except among ages 80 and up.
A woman in her 40s who lives in Downtown Los Angeles shared with The Times that she had been sent three codes from different people over the span of a few days by Monday evening. She did not make an appointment but said she knew more than one person who had been vaccinated using the codes and describes them as white non-essential workers. The Times does share that the website where the appointments are made does not explicitly say that these are for communities of color.
“Nobody thinks they’re doing something wrong,” said the woman, who declined to give her name. “They honestly have convinced themselves to believe that this is leftovers, that this is pilot testing, open to everyone.”