White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients admitted Sunday that it was “unacceptable” that people of color have received the vaccine at lower rates around the country.
“That is unacceptable. Communities of color have been hit disproportionally hard by this disease, suffering death rates twice the average,” Zients told NBC anchor Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” when confronted with showing the disparity in Washington, DC.
“So it’s really, really important that when we come to vaccine distribution that we do it in a fair and equitable way, the situation that you’re describing is not fair and equitable.”
Zients said that federal programs have been established to ensure that vaccines are more easily accessible in these communities in the future.
“We need to bring vaccines to people where they are, which is why community health centers are so important they serve over 30 million Americans,” he said. “Two-thirds of those that use community health centers live below the poverty line, 60 percent come from communities of color. That’s why the president established a program to send vaccines directly to community health centers.”
He said that the feds are also using mobile units to “reach people where they are” and designed the pharmacy program to focus on giving the shots to “disadvantaged” areas — but said states had to be “accountable.”
“We are holding states and governors accountable for fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine.”
Zients said the US is currently averaging about 2.2 million shots administered per day.
He added that the US being on track to have enough COVID-19 shots for every adult American this spring is “really big progress” from when President Biden entered office.
“It’s really big progress to have enough vaccine supply for all adult Americans by the end of May,” Zients said.
“When we walked into office, six, seven weeks ago, there was not enough supply and it was pushed much further out.”
Zients credited the Biden administration for invoking the Defense Production Act to enable drugmaker Merck to ramp up its facilities in order to help rival Johnson & Johnson with vaccination production.
“Thee actions by the president, including using the Defense Production Act and bringing Merck and Johnson together into a historic partnership, have accelerated our ability to have enough vaccine by the end of May for all adult Americans,” Zients said. “That’s progress and that is really important.”