Early on in the pandemic, it was revealed Black and low-income Americans were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Data from John Hopkins University show Black Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID-19. The American Medical Association said income status has a significant impact on both COVID-19 cases and deaths.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, the Foundation for a Health Kentucky encourages vaccine providers to start thinking about equity.

“They are hard to reach for a number of different reasons — for care for one thing,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said Tuesday. “They don’t get the same level of care often. But they also tend to have more health vulnerabilities.”

Currently, many vaccine and COVID-19 testing sites are drive-up only or require an online sign up. This poses a problem for those without transportation or internet services.

According to the Census Bureau, Jackson Purchase poverty levels range from 15.5% in McCracken County to 25.6% in Fulton County. These are all above the national poverty rate.

“If it is brought to our attention that a certain population in a populated area cannot travel to the health department or to a mass vaccination site, we will do whatever we can to make sure that they are given the opportunity to receive a vaccination, which may include a community vaccination clinic,” said Kent Koster, the Purchase District Health Department director.

Chandler said a proactive approach is best for all health departments.

“I think it’s very important for health departments to reach out to different neighborhoods, different groups of people within a particular community and let them know a little bit more about when a vaccine will be available and how to access those vaccines,” Chandler said.

Chandler’s group is coordinating with state of Kentucky to help give guidance on equitable vaccine distribution throughout the state.

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