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Following Reports of Preferences for Donors in Vaccine Distribution, Mayor Durkan Calls on State Department of Health to Reassess Distribution Model to Prioritize Most Vulnerable

Mayor Urges State to Immediately Reallocate Vaccines from Providers Found to Have Given Preferential Treatment

Seattle (January 29, 2021) – Following several investigative reports from The Seattle Times detailing major regional health care providers giving preferential vaccine access to donors and board members, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan issued a statement calling on the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) to reassess its vaccine distribution model in order to lead with equity and prioritize the most vulnerable.  In addition, the Mayor called on DOH to explicitly prohibit the distribution of vaccine to financial donors or those with similar financial preferences. She urged DOH to immediately reallocate vaccines to small-scale Community Health Clinics, (CHC) which are best positioned to vaccinate Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities and immigrants and refugees, and entities like the City of Seattle which are focused on equitable distribution. 

Across the state, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color. In King County, COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Latinx and Black communities. Latinx individuals represent 25.2% of cases yet are 10% of the population countywide. Black individuals represent 12% of cases yet are 6.4% of the population countywide.

“The state must urgently examine changes to its vaccine distribution system and policies. It is incontrovertible that our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities have been disproportionately impacted by the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have an obligation to ensure that our fight against the pandemic does not exacerbate inequities and instead centers those most impacted in our access to treatment, our economic assistance, and now in access to life-saving vaccines.

“Because of generations of systemic inequities, including inequitable access to health care and economic opportunity, BIPOC communities have suffered more health impacts and more devastating economic losses. Not only are communities of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, many BIPOC communities are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine due to systemic racism perpetuated by government and the health care system. Unfortunately, the recent stories of preferential treatment by providers for financial donors, coupled with the struggles of communities to vaccinate their most vulnerable members, show even more starkly that these systems are failing communities of color. This is eroding trust in government at a time when public confidence is crucial for the health and recovery of our communities. Corrective action must be taken now.

“Until a greater supply of vaccine is available, the state should immediately change allocations to prioritize community health care providers and to provide significantly increased allocations to entities like the City of Seattle dedicated to vaccinating the most impacted and vulnerable members of our community. 

“Across the board, members of our BIPOC communities are being left out and face a range of obstacles such as lack of access to health care providers, lack of access to internet for making appointments, or language and accessibility barriers. I know health care providers generally have been working hard to continue to serve the public, but high donors and hospital board members being offered “special access” to vaccines is unacceptable and particularly egregious when at the same time many community health centers and are struggling to get access to vaccines. These local health centers are exactly who we need in this fight because they are best positioned to reach historically underserved and vaccine hesitant communities.

“As we’re all working to get vaccines out quickly and equitably, we know that our community health centers already have trusted relationships. In an equity-centered model for distribution of limited vaccine supply, they should be at the top of the priority list, not an afterthought.

“The work ahead of us to vaccinate our community is a once in a generation challenge. All of us, at every level of government and our many important community partners, need to work every day to ensure the vaccine is getting to those who need it most. This is especially important right now when the supply of vaccine is so constrained. The City of Seattle hopes our access to vaccine will increase so that we can greatly increase our vaccination efforts.”