March 17, 2021

Van Hollen, Duckworth, Booker Ask Biden-Harris Health Equity Task Force to Release Guidance on Addressing Disparities in COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with a number of their colleagues, in sending a letter to Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, requesting guidance and recommendations be provided to states, localities, territories, and tribes on how to address disparities and reduce inequities in COVID-19 vaccination rates. Specifically, the Senators asked the Task Force to engage communities of color, people with disabilities, and other disproportionately impacted groups and, when providing guidance and recommendations, consider a wide-ranging list of questions that will help Americans obtain information and get vaccinated in an equitable and timely manner. In Maryland, demographic data has clearly demonstrated disparities in vaccine access as communities of color are being vaccinated at significantly lower rates. While Black people represent 31 percent of Maryland’s population and 33 percent of COVID-19 cases, they make up only 18 percent of vaccinations.

Throughout the pandemic, Senator Van Hollen has consistently urged the State to address disparities in the COVID-19 response and vaccine access. In May 2020, Senator Van Hollen urged Maryland Governor Hogan to use race and ethnicity data to create a plan to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the State’s communities of color. He also led Maryland congressional delegation members in sending a letter to the Governor calling for his Administration to improve vaccine distribution and address the inequitable rollout. Senator Van Hollen also worked to secure $6.3 billion for Maryland’s state and local governments within the American Rescue Plan package, which will keep frontline workers on the job and support equitable testing and vaccine distribution. The American Rescue Plan also helps address disparities in health care access nationwide by investing $7.66 billion in our public health workforce and $7.6 billion in community health centers.

The Senators began, “The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on millions of individuals and families across the country, but it has highlighted longstanding disparities in our healthcare and economic systems.” 

The Senators continued, “There have … been several barriers to getting the vaccine for many Americans at the State, local, territorial, Tribal and vaccination site level, which are contributing to these disparities… It is important to note that systemic and structural racism have created, and continue to exacerbate, these and other challenges.”

The Senators concluded, “While an increase in vaccine supply—which we also strongly urge the Administration to quickly provide—will help in getting our country back on its feet, we are concerned that inequities will continue to grow unless we take specific and concrete steps to address them right now. We appreciate your efforts and your timely response to this request.”

U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) joined Van Hollen, Duckworth, and Booker in sending this letter.  

A full copy of the letter is available here.