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Council, Mayor Continue to Raise ‘Concerns’ Around Vaccine Equity

Resolution outlines guiding principles, strategies for more equitable distribution 

SEATTLE  Council President M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), Chair of the Governance & Education Committee, and Councilmembers Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle and South Park), Debora Juarez (District 5 – North Seattle) and Teresa Mosqueda (Pos. 8, Citywide), together with their colleagues, approved Resolution 31922, “identifying the principles and activities characterizing equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”

In response to multiple reports raising concerns around vaccine distribution, Council passed Resolution 31922 unanimously. As of February 13, 2021, 4,675 Washington State residents have died of COVID-19, with 311,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19. COVID-19 rates have hit Latinx, Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities disproportionately per the Washington State Department of Health dashboard.

“Vaccinations offer hope and protection against COVID-19 but that hope and protection is not being equitably offered and distributed to many communities, who are being left behind in vaccine access,” said Council President González. “It is not too late to shift vaccine delivery strategies to get vaccines to our hardest hit populations. We can better serve the vaccination-access needs of those communities by addressing barriers like language, technology, transportation, or medical racism. The City of Seattle is committed to equity and take necessary action to ensure equitable distribution of vaccinations to BIPOC communities together with the region’s community health centers, who share our goal of getting Seattle vaccinated against this deadly disease.”    

The Resolution calls for an ‘equitable plan for the distribution of vaccines in Seattle’, including but not limited to directing the City, in collaboration with its community and institutional partners, to recommit to equity and racial justice; and, partner with communities to identify barriers (such as distrust based on historical and continuing medical racism, past practices, language access, transportation) and assets to tailor vaccination outreach, education, and services to community accordingly; and, incorporate BIPOC individuals and representatives of the trusted community-based organizations that serve these communities in COVID vaccine planning, implementation and after-action review processes. 

The resolution incorporates powerful testimony from a panel of community health experts and impacted individuals from the February 9th Governance and Education Committee in which community members called on every layer of government to course correct vaccine distribution for strategies that are inclusive and equitable.  

“Thank you to Council President González for her work on this resolution. COVID has exacerbated the inequities that were already present in Seattle for residents and workers, with far too many working families struggling to access affordable healthcare, childcare, housing and food,” said Councilmember Mosqueda.  “Vaccine distribution should not further exacerbate those inequities. Seattle has an opportunity to do better by investing our resources to support equitable opportunities for vaccines, especially for our BIPOC residents, in partnership with our Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) who provide bilingual and bicultural care year-round. Equitable vaccine distribution means more essential workers, vulnerable residents, and our elders should get access to vaccines immediately, which will benefit the health of our entire community and economic recovery.”

“Trusted community messengers like the Seattle Indian Health Board prove culturally-attuned COVID-19 response works,” said Councilmember Juarez. “75 percent of American Indians and Alaska Native people are willing to get vaccinated, a figure that is 11 points higher than the nation’s average.”

To achieve these principles, the Resolution tasks the City to collaborate with community-based health providers and health services consumers to provide targeted, culturally-appropriate vaccination services, including efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and concerns stemming from institutional racism; and, across jurisdictions and with the philanthropic and private sectors.  

“Vaccine providers offering lifesaving vaccine to their wealthiest supporters is shocking.  But the reality is that, in almost every way, the early vaccination rollout in our state has been marked by reinforcement of the institutional inequities already prevalent in healthcare,” said Councilmember Herbold.  “The result is both predictable and tragic: those most at risk from Covid are crowded out of the line to receive scarce vaccine doses.  This resolution affirms that precious vaccine doses must be prioritized for those most impacted by the pandemic, that we must collect and analyze data about the race and ethnicity of people receiving vaccination, and we must prohibit any request for documentation of immigration status of any person seeking vaccination.”

“At the City, we are deeply committed to ensuring our BIPOC communities and immigrant and refugee communities have equitable access to the vaccine,” said Mayor Durkan. “The vast majority of people vaccinated by our Seattle Fire Department mobile teams identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities, and many face other systemic barriers to vaccination including mobility challenges, speaking a language other than English, and being uninsured. Those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic should be the first to get vaccinated, and the City of Seattle – working with our community-based and government partners – can and should lead in the way in equitable access. We also know that those closest to the problem remain closest to the solution, and the City will continue partnering with the philanthropic sector to provide our community-based organizations with the resources needed to help ensure an equitable distribution of the vaccine.” 

Resolution 31922 creates guiding principles for the City to abide by in an effort to identify potential strategies for the ways in which Seattle will participate in equitable vaccine delivery. To-date, the areas of focus identified in the resolution include: a focus on the highest risk and most impacted, commitment to work with community, make registration easier, make vaccines available when and where people are available, address transportation and mobility, and ensure language access.  Additionally, the City has committed to identifying specific approaches to collaboration across community-based organizations, community health clinics, philanthropy, Federally Qualified Health Centers and the Indian Healthcare System to meet the goal of equitable vaccine delivery.  

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