In 2021, MPHA joined forces with racial justice, immigrant justice, and civil rights organizations to found the Vaccine Equity Now! Coalition out of shared concern that the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts was inequitable. The state’s decision to distribute the vaccine primarily through mass vaccination sites had resulted in lower vaccination rates for low-income communities of color, which had already borne a disproportionate share of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition’s first action was to issue Five Demands to Governor Baker, calling on Governor Baker and his administration to take immediate action to begin addressing inequities in vaccine distribution. The coalition’s demands included:
- Direct $10 million to trusted community organizations for outreach & engagement in communities of color,
- Immediately implement the promised 20% additional doses for the most impacted communities,
- Set clear goals & track vaccine benchmarks that mirror the disproportionate impact on Black & Latinx residents,
- Improve language access & cultural competence across all aspects of vaccine outreach & administration, and
- Appoint a Vaccines Czar with authority & accountability to address vaccine inequities.
Subsequently, the coalition worked to hold the Baker administration accountable for decisions related to vaccine access and distribution and to push for prioritizing delivery of vaccines to the hardest hit communities. In addition, VEN advocated for a variety of equity-based policies, including:
- the establishment of clear equity benchmarks,
- collaboration with local officials and community leaders,
- cultural humility in vaccine outreach programs,
- transparency in the allocation of resources, and
- strong data collection and reporting, which are essential to measure progress towards vaccine equity.
VEN also developed and released Equity Principles for Workplace COVID-19 Vaccine Policies & Safety Practices, in order to help local businesses develop and implement policies designed to promote health and well-being throughout their communities.
VEN was cochaired by Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Sweet, Next Leadership Development Corporation Executive Director Dr. Atyia Martin, and MPHA Executive Director Carlene Pavlos. The coalition wrapped up its work in the summer of 2022, but individual member organizations continue to support vaccination efforts in their communities.
#MyVaccineStory Town Hall Video Recording (April 2021)