Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The pandemic has disproportionately harmed low-income communities of color, yet people from wealthier, largely white neighborhoods are taking an outsize share of vaccines.

In Washington D.C., a clinic that serves a largely Black population noticed an influx of white people when it began giving out vaccines. A sign-up link brought a stampede of people from wealthy Dallas suburbs to a site in a predominately African-American and Latino neighborhood. And in a Los Angeles neighborhood where 97 percent of residents are people of color, young white “vaccine chasers” from other neighborhoods have been camping out at clinics, hoping for soon-to-expire shots.

These anecdotes are backed up by early vaccination data. In Philadelphia, Black people make up 44 percent of the population, but only 12 percent of those who have been inoculated. In New York City, 24 percent of residents are Black, compared with only 11 percent of vaccine recipients. In Miami-Dade County, Black residents make up nearly 17 percent of the population, but they make up just 7 percent of vaccine recipients.

This pattern has complicated and deep-seated causes, but two of the biggest factors are access and trust.

The ramshackle vaccine distribution system favors people with resources — especially time, transportation and access to technology. And many Black and Latino people are hesitant to be vaccinated. They also have higher levels of distrust in the government and medical establishment than white people. In a recent poll, 43 percent of Black adults and 37 percent of Hispanic adults said they wanted to “wait and see” how the vaccine was working before taking it, compared with 26 percent of white adults.

Attempts have been made to rectify the vaccination gap with limited success.

Some cities have created door-to-door campaigns looking for eligible residents, while others have tried to restrict inoculations to people in their surrounding communities. But when Dallas County tried to limit vaccines to people from certain disadvantaged ZIP codes, Texas officials threatened to withhold the county’s vaccine supply.

Fighting vaccine skepticism among Black people may prove to be an even trickier problem. It will require a full-court press, argued Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an opinion article in The Times. His suggestion? Start by allowing basketball stars to move to the front of the line if they are willing to get their vaccines on camera.

A vaccine developed in Russia, known as Sputnik V, has exceeded expectations in a new study that showed it to have a 91.6 percent efficacy rate against the coronavirus without serious side effects.

The peer-reviewed results in The Lancet, based on a clinical trial of 22,000 people, were a huge boost for the government of President Vladimir Putin, which faced international skepticism after approving and distributing the vaccine in August before late-stage trials had even begun.

“The development of the Sputnik V vaccine has been criticized for unseemly haste, corner cutting, and an absence of transparency,” wrote two British virology experts in the prestigious medical journal. “But the outcome reported here is clear and the scientific principle of vaccination is demonstrated.”

Doses of the Sputnik V vaccine are cheap, at about $20 for two shots, and they do not need to be kept at an ultracold temperature, leaving Russia well positioned to deliver a cheap vaccine at home and abroad.

In the U.S., the drugmaker Moderna is asking regulators for approval to increase the number of doses in each vial to 15 from 10, arguing that the lower threshold is hampering its output.

And health officials across the world looking to stretch their vaccine supplies got some encouraging news today. New data from Oxford and AstraZeneca suggests that a single dose of their vaccine provides strong protection in clinical trials, even when second shots are delayed by at least three months.

The results support the strategy deployed by Britain and other countries to prioritize providing as many first doses of vaccines as possible without worrying that people will get their second doses later than initially planned.

  • Portugal is struggling to contain a coronavirus outbreak that has led to the highest death rate in Europe. Intensive care units are rapidly filling, and hospitals have resorted to using spaces meant for other critical care patients.

  • The authorities in Britain began testing 80,000 residents in a hunt for the South African variant, resulting in one of the largest concerted testing efforts in the country since the outbreak.

  • Just days after residents of Perth, Australia, were ordered to stay home because of the coronavirus, some were forced to flee their homes as a ferocious wildfire bore down on the city’s outskirts.

Here’s a roundup of restrictions in all 50 states.

Each day we get up and try to decide what exciting thing we can do that day. It could be taking a trip to the pet store for food, driving through a neighborhood commenting on what people have done to their houses, dropping some “no longer needs” at the local charity, taking grandma’s medicine vials to her at the senior living center, working in the yard (too cold for that now), or going to pick up groceries at the curbside pickup. Hopefully, our next big trip will be to the drive-in vaccination center — the most exciting thing to happen around here in a long time.

— Robert L. Lamb, Shelby County, Ala.

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Jonny Richards

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