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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/29/21

Making Vaccines More Accessible

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Many essential workers still aren't vaccinated. It's not because they don't want to be it's because they can't get time off work.

Vaccine needed for Coronavirus and Planet Earth
Vaccine needed for Coronavirus and Planet Earth
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After getting vaccinated, I eagerly returned to some parts of normal life, expecting the essential workers I interacted with would be already vaccinated. After all, they became eligible for the vaccine before I did, and our county has one of the highest rates of vaccinations in the country.

I was surprised when a few people told me they weren't vaccinated. They wanted to get vaccinated, and planned to, but they couldn't afford to risk feeling sick from side effects for two days while they had to work.

It turns out the few people I met in this predicament are not alone. People without college degrees are less likely to be vaccinated than people with college degrees, even after accounting for their political party or race.

Among people who say they are willing to get the vaccine, about three-quarters of people with household income under $25,000 have received at least one dose, compared to 93 percent of people with household income of $200,000 or more.

How do we help everyone who wants a vaccine to get one? The people I know who got vaccinated early spent a lot of time searching for appointments online and sometimes found them in far-off towns they had to drive to. Later, our county offered online registration and emailed invitations to make an appointment at a central, drive-thru site.

You needed to speak English and have internet access. Often, you needed a car. And you needed the flexibility to take an appointment whenever you could get one.

The next step in the vaccine rollout must be expanding accessibility. Fortunately, it's getting easier to get an appointment in most places. With the expansion of walk-in appointments, you have more say over where and when you get the shot. But we should do more.

Employers can help too. They can arrange on-site vaccination for employees or help with transportation. They should also offer paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from side effects. The bigger picture is that we need to work toward a less unequal society overall. The gap between vaccine haves and have-nots is a small part of a much larger problem, which has been made worse by the pandemic. We can and should do better.

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Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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