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LISTEN: Disparities In New England's COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Joe Amon
Connecticut Public/NENC
Jankie Sukhoo, 75, who had already recovered from a bout with the virus, turns away as a nurse administers her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine during a clinic for Hartford, Conn., residents on Feb. 6, 2021.

The latest vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that some New England states are vaccinating against COVID-19 quicker than others, with Connecticut currently ranking as one of the top states in the U.S. and the top in New England.

New England states ranked by the percentage of people who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose:

  1. Connecticut – 11.9%
  2. Maine – 10.5%
  3. Vermont – 10.5%
  4. Massachusetts – 10%
  5. New Hampshire – 9.2%
  6. Rhode Island – 8.3%

Some state officials in the region argue that speedy distribution has meant sacrificing equity. Nationally, the CDC reports that white people are being vaccinated at higher rates than people of color, including Black and Latino residents. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker said his state has been slower to vaccinate because it has taken a more targeted approach, focusing on homeless shelters, prisons and group homes where there have been clusters of cases.

Dr. Tom Sequist, who oversees equity at Mass General Brigham, said some states that are vaccinating people quickly are doing so in large suburban venues that are more likely to cater to white people.

“This choice to support these venues that aren’t accessible to communities hardest hit by the pandemic is another form of structural racism that perpetuates gaps in health outcomes,” Sequist told WBUR’s Martha Bebinger.

Sequist suggests that states should focus on vaccinating populations that have been hardest hit by COVID-19 first, often Black and Latino communities.

Rhode Island decided to do just that. Although the data rank Rhode Island last among New England states in terms of percentage of people receiving their first dose, the state focused on vaccinating residents in Central Falls, a city that has an especially high virus infection rate.

NEXT spoke with three New England News Collaborative reporters who cover health: Bebinger, Maine Public Radio’s Patty Wight and Connecticut Public Radio’s Nicole Leonard. Listen for more.

This interview was featured in an episode of NEXT from the New England News Collaborative. You can listen to the entire episode here.

Morgan Springer is the host/producer for the weekly show NEXT and the New England News Collaborative, a ten-station consortium of public radio newsrooms. She joined WNPR in 2019. Before working at Connecticut Public Radio, Morgan was the news director at Interlochen Public Radio in northern Michigan, where she launched and co-hosted a weekly show Points North.

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