By Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson
After reports of stark racial disparities in vaccination rates, Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson issued the follow statement urging immediate action to address the inequity in New Jersey’s communities of color:
From the beginning, this virus has preyed on our social inequities and exposed the fragility of a nation that has failed to cast off the effects of racism, segregation, red-lining, an exclusive middle-class and a profit-first healthcare system. Black and brown communities are those most afflicted by food and job insecurity, the least able to work from home and Black and brown people are dying at three times the rate of the white population.
Now, roughly a month into a vaccination campaign, only eight percent of the vaccines distributed have gone into the arms of Black or brown people. The reasons for this are storied, from general mistrust in the government to limited internet access, but it is vital that we address this disparity head on.
There isn’t a silver bullet for this problem because the causes of poverty, inequality and mistrust are complex, generational and systemic. Therefore, it requires double our efforts.
Leaders in the Black and brown communities, myself included, need to be relentless in our awareness campaigns to help sew greater trust into this process. That must be coupled with the state and county governments being much more proactive in reaching these communities, whether that be through local community organizations, places of worship or mobile vaccination programs that come to the people rather than asking the people to come to them.
This is urgent, it cannot wait and it won’t just be our communities of color that will suffer if we fail to address it. If we really want to stop the spread, open up, go back to school and put the coronavirus behind us, we have to make sure every community has the same level of protection. If we have learned anything from this pandemic I hope it’s an understanding of our interdependency, that we are only as healthy as our most exposed shopkeeper, only as safe as our most vulnerable neighbor.”