Ending Vaccine Apartheid in Baltimore – Saving Lives Campaign Proposals
Community leaders held a press conference to end “Vaccine Apartheid” in Baltimore, calling for concrete remedies to Maryland’s vaccine rollout disparity. Participants included: Reverend Annie Chambers, Peoples Power Assembly, and Douglas Homes advocate; Dr. “Doc” Marvin Cheatham, President, Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association (West Baltimore); Leon Purnell, director Men’s and Family Center (East Baltimore); Joyce Butler, Prisoners Solidarity Committee; and Sharon Black, retired RN and Peoples Power Assembly.
The press conference took place on a blustery cold day in front of Dallas Court at Douglas Homes. Reverend Chambers stated, “In this small housing court, three people who died from COVID and a fourth have developed serious COVID illness. I have also lost a family member to COVID.”
Sharon Black, “We are asking for a minute of silence for the lives lost to COVID; you can see that this is not an abstract question for us. We will not rest until every person who wants a vaccine gets one and that we beat COVID in Baltimore.”
“Give Baltimore the damn vaccine!” proclaimed Cheatham. His organization has been actively engaged with neighborhood outreach since the pandemic began. Cheatham stressed that Coppin State University should become a site for vaccination, “It sits in the heart of West Baltimore, and it enables residents to easily access the vaccine.”
Leon Purnell stated, “Our residents don’t have internet access and the ability to navigate the complex systems, and they are being left behind. He exclaimed, “We already have the vans that can do work in the Eastside.”
“Our prisoners must get the vaccine! They are our relatives and loved ones. We are continually getting reports that there is inadequate PPE and they are getting sick”, stated Joyce Butler from the Prisoners Solidarity Committee.
The above groups and representatives seek meetings with City officials, the Baltimore Health Department, the State government, and National Guard representatives to discuss some of the concrete steps they seek.
This is the statement and demands they announced:
STATEMENT FROM THE BALTIMORE SAVING LIVES CAMPAIGN
ENDING VACCINE APARTHEID
As community leaders and organizations, we have come together to form a “Baltimore Saving Lives Campaign.” We both seek to expose and highlight the disparity in vaccine distribution and put forward solutions.
Black, Brown, and poor communities of Baltimore have been left behind. The facts are there, and the urgency is real. In the last year, Black people’s life expectancy has dropped a full 2.7 years. Due to COVID, this is the first time in U.S. history that we have seen such a sharp decline.
Those most in need have been pushed to the back of the line. This is due to the method that vaccines have been rolled out. Complex, confusing and impossible internet sign-ups, phone lines that people cannot get through, and lack of transportation have created barriers.
Our most vulnerable elders, those without digital access and transportation, must get the vaccine. This includes low-wage essential workers, those living in public housing, in the streets, and those who are being forgotten in the patchwork of confusing delivery systems.
Our goal is to see that everyone who wants a vaccine gets a vaccine. Our goal is to beat COVID in Baltimore.
Our proposals are based on that larger goal. We MUST be proactive and think beyond the initial rollout, which has been a failure. A failure that has obviously left out the people of Baltimore. We need to prepare now, not wait!
These are our initial proposals:
INCLUDE M & T SITE FOR BALTIMORE RESIDENTS FIRST
ALLOCATE MORE VACCINES TO CLOSE THE DISPARITY
ONE DEDICATED 24 HOUR CITY HOTLINE TO SCHEDULE VACCINES BASED ON 311 MODEL WITH ADEQUATE STAFFING
PLAN TO EXTEND HOURS FOR ALL SITES
DOOR TO DOOR VACCINATIONS
ACCESSIBLE COMMUNITY VACCINATION CENTERS
- Churches & Closed Recreation Centers
- Coppin State University – West Baltimore
- Men’s and Family Center – East Baltimore
- The zip code priorities set at the Convention Center site have left off many housing projects, including Douglas Homes. With the detection of the virus at Latrobe Homes, setting up mobile units to cover each area is urgent.
FREE UBER TRANSPORTATION
- Baltimore County is already providing free uber transportation
EXPAND CATEGORIES BASED ON NEED
- The City can use its own guidelines based on the fact that many of our residents are at greater risk. For instance, the COVID death rate for Black, Latinx, and low-wage and essential workers is higher, regardless of age. In Washington D.C., Mayor Muriel Browser lowered the age for vaccinations in heavily Black wards. This was because the Black population’s death rates were higher, and life expectancy was shorter. We must think out of the box, including exploring other vaccine sources if needed.
HOMELESS & PEOPLE WITH ADDICTIONS
- Plans must be made to immediately go into action when one-shot vaccines are delivered. Many states have already begun using the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
- While the prison system is run primarily by the State, many of the incarcerated population are from Baltimore City. We must strongly advocate that all prisoners be vaccinated and have adequate PPE.
LOW WAGE AND ESSENTIAL WORKERS NOT FORMERLY COVERED
- Many of these workers suffer from underlying health conditions, yet they are forced to work with no protection. This includes grocery workers, retail clerks, fast food and restaurant workers, bus drivers, etc. Let’s get them vaccinated as soon as possible.
- Involve the unions in making plans to protect their workers.
LISTEN TO OUR TEACHERS, NOT UNTIL ITS SAFE
WEEKLY BRIEFINGS WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS ON PROGRESS AND PROBLEMS
- We are urging weekly briefings with the Saving Our Lives Campaign and others with the City and State representatives, including the Baltimore City Health Department, representatives of the Mayor’s Office, the Governor, and the National Guard.