Health News Roundup

Overcoming barriers to get people vaccinated, and more in this week’s roundup

Beating the pavement to vaccinate the underrepresented — and protect everyone
Anna Almendrala, Kaiser Health News, April 2
The country needs to get the COVID-19 vaccination rate to about 75% to keep the virus from easily spreading — a level called herd immunity by experts on infectious diseases. But even that figure assumes the population is homogenous in terms of vaccination. That’s why the state’s ability to stave off another COVID surge may rely on people like Leonor Garcia and Erika Marroquin — community health workers and organizers doing time-intensive, laborious work — to prevent pockets of the population with low vaccination rates in remote or isolated communities from becoming a tinderbox for a new COVID surge.

Hundreds vaccinated in Hartford against COVID-19 in walk-up clinic aimed at overcoming registration barriers 
Rebecca Lurye, The Hartford Courant, April 1
The goal of the walk-up clinics is to expand access to the vaccine to city residents, particularly those who face barriers to scheduling an appointment, such as not speaking English or lacking Internet access. Thursday’s crowd also included many older residents who have been eligible for the vaccine for weeks but never managed to secure an appointment. The city has also been working its way down a call list of residents who signed up to be contacted when appointments were available.

Troubling podcast puts JAMA under fire for its mishandling of race  
Usha Lee McFarling, STAT, April 6
Weeks after it was scrubbed from the Journal of the American Medical Association’s website, a disastrous podcast — whose host, a white editor and physician, questioned whether racism even exists in medicine — is surfacing complaints that JAMA and other elite medical journals have routinely excluded, minimized, and mishandled issues of race. Recent examples include research blaming higher death rates from COVID-19 in African Americans on a single gene in their nasal passages; a letter claiming structural racism doesn’t play a role in pulse oximeters working less well on patients with dark skin because machines can’t exhibit bias; and an article claiming that students of programs designed to increase diversity in medicine won’t make good doctors. Critics say such ideas, published in powerful journals that doctors look to for leadership and education, are serving to perpetuate and entrench health inequities that have long harmed and shortened the lives of many people of color.

Opinion: Why we have to target racism to improve health outcomes 
Tiffany Donelson, CT Viewpoints, April 5
The COVID-19 pandemic affects us all, but it has taken an especially severe toll on Black and Hispanic state residents, magnifying inequities that have long produced worse health outcomes for people of color. This reality has led to many policy proposals to address health inequities, as well as conversations that center on the role of racism in producing disparate health outcomes. In response, some have asked why focus on race or racism, rather than other factors, such as income, education, or geography. As the leader of a foundation focused on health equity, I hear these questions often, and I would like to offer some answers.