Distributing COVID-19 vaccine equitably
On Feb. 15, local leaders announced a new public-private Vaccine Equity Fund, with a goal of raising $15 million dollars to provide more COVID-19 vaccines to communities of color, and fix “inequitable” distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
People who are Hispanic, Black and multiracial in Washington have been vaccinated for COVID-19 at lower rates than their percentage of the population, according to new data from the state Department of Health. While 13% of Washington’s population is “Hispanic” (the term used in the report), only 6% of Hispanic people have been vaccinated. Black and Hispanic Washingtonians have also tested positive COVID-19 at higher rates than white people.
All In Washington — a coalition focused on COVID-19 relief and made up of philanthropy, elected officials, nonprofits and more — led the effort.
The goal is to raise $15 million dollars in private funding that would be matched by another $15 million from the state.
The new effort will likely include new mobile pop-up vaccine teams, and will target funding for “trusted, community-based organizations” to do culturally-informed vaccine outreach.
On Feb. 11, a coalition of organizations that serve immigrants, refugees and communities of color in King County sent a letter to County Executive Dow Constantine and Gov. Jay Inslee, raising concern about “barriers and significant inequities” in vaccine distribution. People without English-language proficiency, or who lack access to transportation and technology, “are often shut out,” according to the letter, resulting in high-risk communities of color being under-vaccinated.
Mercer Island Council debates banning unhoused people
The Mercer Island City Council is considering a new ordinance that would ban public camping or storing belongings in public places on the island, The Seattle Times reported.
The city of Mercer Island already has a ban on camping in parks. Under the proposed ordinance, violations would be a misdemeanor, with fines of up to $1,000 dollars and 90 days in jail. People who camp outdoors or sleep in their cars would be directed to shelters on the Eastside.
Mercer Island Police Sergeant Mike Seifer presented the legislation to the City Council and explained that it was targeted at ten homeless people living on the island, PubliCola reported — four people he said the police frequently deal with in public spaces and six or seven in their vehicles.
The ACLU of Washington is concerned about the proposal, The Times reported.
Read more of the Feb. 17-23, 2021 issue.