Shaheen Helps Reintroduce Bill to Improve Vaccination Efforts in Underserved and Minority Communities

February 28, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) helped reintroduce legislation to increase COVID-19 vaccine confidence and improve vaccination rates in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color. Sponsored by Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), the COVID-19 Health Disparities Action Act would support targeted and culturally competent public awareness campaigns about COVID-19 vaccines and preventative measures, such as masking and social distancing. These campaigns would be catered to communities disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including racial and ethnic minority populations.

“It’s unacceptable that marginalized communities suffering the highest COVID-19 mortality rates aren’t receiving their fair share of vaccinations nor access to education on preventative measures. These disparities in access to health care along racial and economic lines have deadly consequences,” said Shaheen. “I’m glad to support legislation that advances culturally competent awareness campaigns. We must ensure our COVID-19 response effort is as inclusive and comprehensive as possible, and I’ll continue working in the Senate to ensure no community is left behind during this crisis.”  

Health officials are recording disproportionate hospitalizations and deaths and observing lower than average vaccination rates in communities of color. While almost all states report vaccination data to the CDC, only 32 states include demographic data specifying race and ethnicity. Just a few of weeks ago, the Washington Post reported there are significant gaps in reported data because race and ethnicity data was missing for nearly half of all vaccine recipients in the early days of vaccine distribution.

Senator Shaheen has fiercely advocated for robust vaccination efforts, including targeted outreach to at-risk communities. She successfully pushed for additional funding for vaccine distribution in the COVID-19 relief package passed into law in December, which included $69 billion for vaccines, testing and tracing, community health and health care provider support. Last month, Shaheen joined a letter urging the Trump administration to immediately fix the significant failures of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. The letter underscored that a plan must include guidance and best practices on taking the vaccine from distribution to administration; provide all necessary resources to state, local, Tribal and territorial governments and other jurisdictions; account for the significant challenges jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces; and act to ensure vaccine distribution efforts also combat health inequities. Shaheen also pressed the Trump administration on reports stating that earlier last year, the administration declined to purchase additional doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine when given the opportunity.