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Health Equity and Vaccines: A Combination of Internal and External Forces Drove Low Rates

In communities of color, hesitancy, mistrust, and access issues all drove low COVID-19 vaccination rates during the pandemic.


In communities of color, health inequities remain a challenge within health care. Certainly the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this issues, especially as they pertain to vaccine and therapy access, explains Jacinda C. Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP.  

Abdul-Mutakabbir is a pharmacist trained in infectious diseases who practices in the intensive care unit of the Loma Linda University (LLU) Medical Center-East Campus in California, pointed out in an interview with Contagion during the recent ID Week.

In Abdul-Mutakabbir’s state of California, Black people represent over 20% of the infections. And in looking at her area of Loma Linda in Southern California, only 30% of Black individuals are fully vaccinated. 

She points out the reasons for this inequities are multi-faceted and acknowledges there are internal individual issues such as vaccine hesitancy as well not trusting the conflicting messages on vaccines, but she also points out external access issues. “It’s a lack of accessibility; it’s not easy to receive vaccines,” Abdul-Mutakabbir said.

She points out the inability for some individuals to get to vaccine centers. For those who might be reliant on public transportation, it may be impossible for people to get to vaccine centers if buses or trains do now travel to these places. This is something people with cars do not need to consider. Although the COVID-19 vaccines have been free, some individuals may not have known that.

And although one side of this is to identify these issues, Abdul-Mutakabbir points out this can be fixed. “Health inequities are preventable.”

Contagion spoke with Abdul-Mutakabbir about vaccine and therapy utilization issues as well as specific strategies to address these problems.

Earlier this year, Abdul-Mutakabbir discussed this very issue of vaccine equality vs vaccine equity as well as her experience on a COVID-19 vaccine drive to increase vaccinations in communities of color during our Contagion Community podcast.