- Affluent ZIP codes are more likely to be vaccinated than lower-income ones in states like California and Florida.
- While the wealthy have sometimes gamed the system, other factors are at work, notably poor design.
- An inequitable rollout and a digital divide are contributing to vaccine inequality.
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American inequality extends to vaccinations.
Communities of color, predominately Black communities, have been hardest hit by the pandemic. They’re also the least likely to be vaccinated.
The wealthy have taken advantage of loopholes, using money and connections to jump the vaccine line, Insider’s Julia Naftulin and Allana Akhtar previously reported. They’ve been gaming the system, from calling up concierge doctors to gaining access to COVID-19 vaccination codes meant for communities of color.
But a wild-west rollout and socioeconomic technology gap are also at the heart of the problem in a poorly designed system advantaging the privileged.
An inequitable rollout
In Florida, residents in affluent areas are getting vaccinated at a faster rate than lower-income neighborhoods, local news outlet WFLA reported. Consider Miami-Dade county, where the wealthiest ZIP codes are the most vaccinated, reported The Miami Herald.
Some residents have criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for setting up special vaccine access in these wealthier areas. He recently set up a pop-up vaccine site in Lakewood Ranch, one of Florida’s richest neighborhoods with a median household income 75% to 85% higher than the county average, per WFLA, citing Census data.
DeSantis said in a press conference Wednesday that he chose Lakewood Ranch because of its elderly population. “We wanted to find communities that have high levels of seniors living in there, and this obviously has a high concentration,” he said. “You look at all these different communities, and there is a lot of senior citizens. If there were few senior citizens, then you wouldn’t have set up a pod here.”
It’s a similar case over in Los Angeles County. Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told the Los Angeles Times that the county’s mass point-of-distribution sites have been successful in their goal to quickly distribute vaccines, but often don’t work well for poorer communities.
More residents in largely white and wealthy cities are vaccinated than the Black and Latino communities in lower-income areas, the LA Times reported. At least 25% of residents have received at least one vaccine dose in more affluent neighborhoods like Bel-Air and Beverly Hills, per LA County Department of Public Health data. It’s a sharp contrast from South LA and southeast LA county, home to working class cities such as Compton and Paramount, where at most 9% of the population is vaccinated.
A digital divide
The digital divide is also partly to blame. Vaccine appointments are a virtual task. Those without access to the internet can’t make an appointment, which is reportedly a difficult process to navigate even with access.
In Los Angeles, “websites have been flooded with folks trying to get an appointment,” Simon said. “And so those people who have the luxury of time can spend, literally in some cases, hours, I’m sad to say, working to try to get an appointment.”
Over in New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio seconded this sentiment to Bloomberg. “Folks who have more privilege are best able to navigate this process,” he said. “Folks who have more confidence in the vaccine are going to go through more effort to get it.”
New York City is also seeing a disproportionate surge in vaccinations among wealthy neighborhoods, Bloomberg reported. De Blasio said there are 33 vaccination sites in “hard-hit” neighborhoods, accounting for 77% of total vaccination sites, but that the city needs to establish more.
He attributed the inequality partially to vaccine hesitancy. “Folks who have been doing very well in this society also have a high level of confidence in the vaccine,” he said.
In today’s modern world, less access to technology is generally equated with less access to education. And, right now, knowledge is power in getting vaccinated.