On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he himself would not get vaccinated for COVID-19 until the vaccine is available to people in his same age group in Black, Hispanic, and poor communities in New York State.
He made the pledge both in recorded remarks to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and in a conversation with Rev. Al Shsrpton on MNBC’s Politics Nation.
“I understand the cynicism and skepticism; it is not without cause,” Cuomo said to the Baptist congregation.“The Tuskegee experiment is a terrible stain on the soul of this nation.”
He was referencing a study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Public Health Service, from 1932 to 1972, in which African-American men were told they were getting free health care when, in fact, they were being used — without being told — as part of a study on untreated syphilis.
“The system does have biases and injustices. But that is not true in the case of this vaccine,” said Cuomo.
He went on to reiterate the case he has made for months — at press conferences as well as in letters to the Trump administration — that the vaccine must be distributed fairly.
“COVID exposed many existing injustices in our society,” Cuomo said. “It showed us the health disparities that exist, and how many communities don’t have fair access to healthcare. COVID showed that racism is a public-health crisis also. COVID killed Black people in this country at two times the rate of white people, and Hispanic people at 1.5 times the rate of white people.
“Testing for COVID was more available in richer, whiter communities, and the infection rate was higher in Black, Hispanic and poor communities. This can’t happen again, and it can’t happen with this vaccine.”
Cuomo went on to mention a state task force headed by Attorney General Letitia James, National Urban League President Marc Morial, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, and Healthfirst President Pat Wang that is to make sure the COVID-19 vaccine is “available to everyone everywhere.”
Cuomo said the state is designing special portable units that can be pop-up vaccination sites and brought to public-housing authorities, churches, and community centers around the state.
He concluded, “I am committed to social and racial justice in the distribution of this vaccine. It will be available as fairly and as quickly as we can make it happen. Race or income will not determine who lives and who dies. And I mean it.
“And that’s why I say to you today that I want to take the vaccine. I move around a lot and come into contact with many people and I would feel much safer if I took the vaccine, but I will not take the vaccine until the vaccine is available for my group in Black, Hispanic, and poor communities around the state.”