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Data shows that minorities are being left out in Tennessee's vaccination distribution

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 21:46:14-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — While the COVID vaccine rollout has been slow for everyone, that's especially the case for some of the most vulnerable. A review of state health data from Neighborhood Health shows that minorities are largely being left out of the state's vaccine distribution plan.

"Less than about 3.6 percent of total vaccinations in the state are among folks who identity as African American, and less than 2 percent are for Hispanics," said Brian Haile, CEO of Neighborhood Health in Nashville.

Haile believes the disparity comes from Tennessee giving two-thirds of it's supply to major hospital chains. Those hospitals are currently only offering the vaccine to their own patients.

"That needs to stop," said Haile. "They only provide the federally required emergency services for the uninsured so if you have a history of being excluded earlier in your life, you may be less likely to seek services from those hospitals."

Haile is now asking the state if community health centers, like the one he runs, can distribute the vaccine too. He's hearing that the state is considering the idea, but Haile is tired of planning and is ready for action. "It’s time for progress not process," he said.

Leaders at Neighborhood Health say if the state called them in the morning saying they're ready for them to distribute the vaccine, they could have them in the arms of some of their patients by that afternoon.

Haile is also concerned that the state’s online reservation system disadvantages those without transportation or internet access.