The East Bay Community Law Center welcomes the news that vaccines are now available to all Californians 16 years old and over. We are committed to ensuring that 100% of our clients have meaningful access to COVID-19 vaccines and are able to make an informed choice about their healthcare. As indicated in our 2021 inauguration statement, EBCLC aims to uplift whole communities by centering women of color. Not only have we borne the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, but we have also been the lifeline of families, neighborhoods, and the entire country during this pandemic.
In support of these efforts, EBCLC has done targeted outreach to our women-of-color clients to understand their motivations and barriers to vaccine access. In our study, we found:
- Our clients want to do everything they can to protect their health and the health of their families.
- While clients have stated that they want to be vaccinated to protect the health of their children and elder relatives, three-quarters have stated that they have not yet been vaccinated.
- Overwhelmingly, clients who were not vaccinated indicated that it was because they thought they were not a priority under vaccine eligibility guidelines.
Our evidence refutes popular, harmful narratives that blame people of color for low inoculation rates in our communities. We are disappointed that media stories cite historical medical discrimination, including the Tuskegee experiment, without exploring the current reality of women of color’s medical care, including racial bias in pain assessment and treatment, high mortality rates for Black mothers, forced sterilizations of immigrant women, and disproportionate COVID-19 related deaths of Filipina nurses. For our outreach, we spoke to cisgender and transgender women of color, a majority of whom wanted to be vaccinated. They told us that they didn’t think they were eligible and that they had difficulties scheduling their appointment. Our clients who were unsure about obtaining a vaccine indicated that their primary concern was how it would impact their underlying health conditions. A racial equity analysis exposes that women of color are more likely to have chronic health issues. Thus, we must underscore that an investment in research and messaging on how the COVID-19 vaccine interacts with health conditions endemic in women of color is critical to ensuring women of color get life-saving medical treatment. Additionally, the low inoculation rates among communities of color clearly show the need for a racial equity analysis to be applied in shaping a fair vaccination distribution plan. Ignoring the importance of applying a racial equity lens and an equitable vaccination allocation plan not only impacts women of color but the network of people, including children, spouses, elders, students, and patients, who rely on their essential labor.
EBCLC is grateful for the collective wins we achieved in 2020, including the longest strongest eviction moratorium in the country, defunding the local police, ending foreclosures for unsecured debt, and the state and national impact these achievements had on people’s lives. It is in the spirit of these victories and our highest value of ensuring our clients thrive that we join a collective effort to ensure communities of color receive urgent medical care. We can’t do this work alone, and we need other critical actors—policymakers, philanthropy, government officials, and other decision-makers—to commit to racially equitable processes that ensure that the reopening of our economy is safe for everyone.
EBCLC will continue to commit to ensuring the safety of our clients and that the reopening of California, including eviction courts, public benefits offices, and juvenile discipline proceedings, is informed by race–specific public health data. We will remain vigilant and engaged as the state moves toward recovery, particularly given the lack of clear equity benchmarks and in order to mitigate the health disparities Black and Latinx women faced throughout 2020.