Using Legislative Power And Other Authority
To Ensure Racial Equity

An Open Letter
To President Joe Biden

Dear President Biden,

We are calling on you President Biden, to issue a federal proclamation declaring racial equity in COVID vaccine distribution and administration a national emergency.  Legislative action will be needed to support this proclamation akin to the actions that followed the Presidential declaration a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak on March 13, 2020.

Now that safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are available, it is imperative that every one of our nation’s residents has fair and equitable access to this vital resource. In many states, data are not being collected to answer the simple question is the vaccine being equitably and fairly provided to all people? In Michigan, for example, African Americans are 14% of the state’s population but represent only 4% of the people who have received the vaccine in the state.  African Americans have been vaccinated in Michigan at half the rate of Whites.  Even more alarming, 44% of the COVID vaccine data are missing race and 70% are missing ethnicity.  By contrast, only 0.01% of the COVID vaccine data are missing gender and there is no missing data on age group for vaccine recipients according to the Michigan COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.

Clearly there is capacity to collect demographic data. The omission of race and ethnicity data from these data collection systems leaves us with no credible pathway to assess racial equity in who is actually getting the COVID vaccine injected in their arm.  This is an injustice against all Americans to inequitably deliver this dose of hope to some more than others.

Further exacerbating the problem in Michigan are attempts by a GOP legislature to preclude the use of race and scientifically validated measures of social inequality to more equitably distribute the vaccine to communities. Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and Michigan Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun led the charge to create a state COVID Disparities Task Force and Michigan closed the disparities gap for African Americans in COVID cases and deaths by September 2020.  While we have a track record of success and a tremendous amount of goodwill from some, more than goodwill be needed in Michigan and across the country to ensure vaccine equity in distribution and, most importantly, in vaccine administration.

Nationally there are racial disparities in COVID vaccination.  While Michigan leaders have been transparent in disclosing our disparities and mounting equity-centered and evidence-based solutions to ensure fairness in COVID resources for all people, sadly, we are pushing a boulder up hill. Partisan politics and a flat-out unwillingness by some to do the right thing remain two of our greatest challenges.

Another obstacle communities face in vaccine equity is that substantial doses of COVID vaccine are being distributed directly to pharmacies and big box stores from the federal government.  These direct distributions allow some vaccine providers to operate outside of the purview of the state’s normal distribution channels. This has likely contributed to vaccine inequity and further fueled mistrust for many minority residents, who have watched White neighbors get vaccinated while they sit by the phone hoping to break through the maze and bottlenecks of multiple waitlists. 

Now that vaccine demand far exceeds vaccine supply, issues of COVID vaccine hesitancy are not the imminent problem driving racial inequity in vaccine administration.  In fact, vaccine waitlists include minority residents who are simply not able to get an appointment to receive the vaccine, despite their willingness to take it. We need legislative pull to support the tremendous community push for COVID vaccine equity.

You, President Biden, have an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate where there is goodwill there is a legislative way.  Please use your power and authority to drive legislative efforts to #MandateEquity in COVID vaccine distribution and administration – now!

Signed By 93 #MandateEquity Supporters:

Debra Furr-Holden, PhD

Epidemiologist and Director Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions
Michigan State University
Flint, MI

Tricia (CK) Hoffler

President, National Bar Association
National Bar Association
Brookhaven, Georgia

Isaiah M. Oliver

President and CEO
Community Foundation of Greater Flint
Flint, MI

Rev. Dr. S. Todd Yeary, Esq.

Senior Pastor/Chief Admin. Officer
Douglas Memorial Community Church/Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Baltimore, MD

E. Yvonne Lewis

CEO/Founding Director
National Center for African American Health Consciousness
Flint, MI

Sean A. Valles

Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences
College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Kay Doerr

Former Chairperson, Genesee County Board of Health

Flint, Michigan

Chiarina G Owens

Pediatric Neuropsychologist
Genesee Health System
Flint, Michigan

Daniel Thiel

Health Policy Doctoral Student
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI

Barry Turner

Executive Director
Community Outreach for Family and Youth

Kirk D. Smith

President & CEO
Greater Flint Health Coalition
Flint, Michigan

Knoll Larkin

Director, Office of Cancer Health Equity & Community Engagemnt
Karmanos Cancer Institute
Detroit, Michigan

Samuel Wisniewski

Epidemiologist/Biostatistician MSUCOM Statewide Campus System
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Aurora Sauceda

Community Coordinator
Latinos United for Flint
Flint, MI

Todd A. Womack

Flint Central Church of the Nazarene
Flint, MI

Lakesha M. Butler, PharmD

Professor and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
St. Louis, Missouri

Robert Wahl

Assistant Professor
Division of Public Health, Michigan State University
Flint, Michigan

Jessie Spencer

Research Assistant
Michigan State University Division of Public Health

Renee Bayer

Associate director for engagement
CREATE for STEM Institute, Michigan State University
East Lansing

Sarah Dyszlewski

Industrial/Organizational Psychologist Practitioner

Farmington Hills, MI

Victoria Arteaga

Volunteer Staff Attorney
International Affairs Center
Flint, Michigan

Marc A Zimmerman

Prevention Research Center, School of Public Health
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Amy Drahota, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Psychology
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan

Burton Bargerstock

Executive Director, Office for Public Engagement and Scholarship
Michigan State University
East Lansing

Dondre D. Young

Chair, Youth Advisory Workgroup, Protect Michigan Commission
State of Michigan
Flint, MI

Barbara McGhan

Flint MI resident and concerned citizen
Please Select

Jonne M McCoy-White

Community Outreach Program Specialist
Michigan State University
Flint, MI

Raymond Sherrod

Raysen Care Services/Sen-Ray of Hope LLC
Waterford Michigan

Eric Oliver

Angelsmith, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA

Candace Smith-King

Vice President, Academic Affairs and Designated Institutional Official

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Julia Galliker

Oakland County Director
Michigan Liberation

Rana Elmir

Acting Executive Director
ACLU of Michigan
Detroit, Michigan

Andrew T Marshall

Assistant Professor
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles / University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

Clark M. Peters

Associate Professor
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO

Sign the Open Letter to Joe Biden