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Health & Wellness

Cuomo, AG James say federal vaccine plan leaves out communities of color

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File Photo / WMHT News
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New York State Attorney General Leticia James

Gov. Andrew Cuomo charged Sunday that the Trump administration’s plan to distribute and allocate a vaccine for COVID-19 will not adequately serve communities of color, which were already hit harder by the virus at its peak in New York.

Cuomo, who was joined by Attorney General Letitia James and leaders from the NAACP and the National Urban League, said the current plan would leave those communities behind.

"COVID has revealed from the very beginning the underlying injustice and inequity in this society,” Cuomo said. “COVID highlighted what we knew, but it raised it to a point where it was obnoxious and blatant how we have disparities and inequalities.”

The Trump administration, according to Cuomo, has put forth a plan to distribute the vaccine that relies on private pharmacies and health care providers to deliver the injection. The first batch of doses will make it to states with 24 hours of FDA approval, the White House has said.

Cuomo, in recent days, has called on the Trump administration to allow states to set up their own, supplemental vaccination programs to expedite distribution of the injection.

He expanded on that request Sunday, saying communities of color were typically underserved in terms of private pharmacies and health care providers. That means, he said, it would be more difficult for residents of those communities to obtain the vaccine.

"It's repugnant, it's discriminatory, and it's unintelligent for all Americans,” Cuomo said. "They should anticipate the need to special outreach to these communities, fund state governments, fund community based organizations.”

James, whose office has led several legal challenges against the Trump administration since she took office last year, said the state is not ruling out a lawsuit against the federal government to force changes to the vaccine plan.

“Everything is on the table,” James said. “We will consider all options at this point.”

She echoed Cuomo’s point about communities of color and the vaccine, saying those individuals wouldn’t have the same access to the injection as predominantly white neighborhoods. James is the first woman of color to serve as state attorney general.

"What we will see in this nation is a patchwork of health care systems trying to administer this vaccination and unfortunately ignoring these communities of color," James said.

It’s still unclear when a vaccine will be ready for the public, and how quickly it will be received by everyone who requests it. Four vaccines are in the final stage of clinical trials, according to the White House.

The Trump administration has criticized Cuomo in recent weeks for choosing not to participate in a series of calls between the White House and governors over the federal response to COVID-19, including the plan for a vaccine.

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