TENSIONS OVER VACCINE EQUITY RANKLES RURAL, URBAN U.S.
The US vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where, from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York, complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation, Travis Loller, Jonathan Mattise and Gillian Flaccus reported for Associated Press (AP).
In some cases, recriminations over how scarce vaccines are distributed have taken on partisan tones, with rural Republican lawmakers in Democrat-led states complaining of “picking winners and losers,” and urbanites traveling hours to rural GOP-leaning communities to score COVID-19 shots when there are none in their city.
In Oregon, state GOP lawmakers walked out of a Legislative session last week over the Democratic governor’s vaccine plans, citing rural vaccine distribution among their concerns.
In upstate New York, public health officials in rural counties have complained of disparities in vaccine allocation in North Carolina, rural lawmakers say too many doses were going to mass vaccine centers in big cities.
In Tennessee, Missouri, and Alabama, a dearth of shots in urban areas with the greatest number of health care workers has led senior citizens to snap up appointments hours from their homes.
The result is a hodgepodge of approaches that can look like the exact opposite of equity, where those most likely to be vaccinated are people with the savvy and means to search out a shot and travel to wherever it is.
“It’s really, really flawed,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who noted there are even vaccine hunters who will find a dose for money.
“Ideally, allocations would meet the population’s needs.”
With little more than general guidance from the federal government, states have taken it upon themselves to decide what it means to distribute the vaccine fairly and reach vulnerable populations.