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Kansas City aims to boost vaccinations for Black, Hispanic residents

By Jim Salter The Associated Press

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — A new task force in Kansas City will seek to ensure that Black and Hispanic residents have equal opportunities to get COVID-19 vaccinations, Mayor Quinton Lucas said Wednesday.

The Democratic mayor announced the formation of Kansas City’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. Lucas said the rate of Hispanic residents in the city dying from the coronavirus is nearly three times that of white residents.

“Every loss is one too many and, with the vaccine, is preventable,” Lucas said in a statement. “Kansas City’s vaccine distribution will reflect where the most COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have occurred to as quickly as possible mitigate community spread," and reduce the number of people in hospitals.

Missouri is among the worst states in terms of vaccination rates. Republican Gov. Mike Parson has said the biggest issue slowing the rollout is lack of vaccine availability. Parson has directed the Missouri National Guard to operate mass vaccination sites across the state in an effort to boost vaccination rates.

The state has seen improvement in some coronavirus metrics in recent weeks, including a drop in confirmed cases and hospitalizations. Missouri on Wednesday reported 1,233 new cases, bringing the pandemic total to 461,720. The state also cited 10 new deaths and 7,098 since the pandemic began.

An Associated Press analysis published Jan. 30 found that Black Americans in many places lag behind whites in receiving coronavirus vaccinations. The look at 17 states and two cities that released racial breakdowns through Jan. 25 found that Black people are getting inoculated at levels below their share of the general population, in some cases significantly so.

Missouri data shows that white residents are getting vaccinated at more than twice the pace of Black residents. It also shows that while 6% of non-Hispanic Missourians have been vaccinated, less than 1% of Hispanic residents have received a first shot.

St. Louis area officials also are pushing to increase vaccinations in underserved communities. St. Louis County’s health department last week began an outreach program using online promotional campaigns, flyers and even knocking on doors to urge people in north St. Louis County to get vaccinated.