US Vice President Kamala Harris urges black Americans: 'Let's not let Covid get us'

Black and Hispanic Americans have been hit harder by pandemic but White House pushes for equity in vaccinations

epa09033827 US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to swear-in United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, during a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, on 24 February 2021.  EPA/KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL
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US Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday urged black Americans to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as data shows blacks and Hispanics lagging behind in inoculations.

"Let's not let Covid get us. Let's get the vaccine instead, right?" Ms Harris said on MSNBC.

"We know black people are disproportionately likely to contract the virus and die from it.

"We know when you look at who the frontline workers are, who is the most at risk disproportionately. We are talking about people of colour."

Black and Hispanic people have been particularly hard hit by Covid-19 with a disproportionate number of deaths, and public health officials have called for equity in vaccine distribution.

Ms Harris, the first black and Asian US vice president, said black small businesses were also being affected, with 40 per cent going out of business.

"It is disproportionately affecting us and if we want to get control of this virus that is harming us at a disproportionate rate, part of it is to get vaccinated," she said.

Early data suggested that black and Hispanic people received a smaller proportion of shots than their representation among healthcare workers and nursing home residents, two priority groups for Covid-19 inoculations.

Enrolment of black Americans in clinical trials was also a particular challenge.

Mistrust runs high, in part because of the nation's history of unethical practices in medical research on African Americans.

President Joe Biden's administration has announced the distribution of 25 million masks to vulnerable populations in community health centres and at food pantries and soup kitchens.

Two thirds of the people served by community health centres live in poverty, the White House said.

Sixty per cent are racial or ethnic minorities and nearly 1.4 million are homeless, the White House said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday appeared at the York College mass vaccination site with black clergy members.

Bishop Calvin Rice, of the New Jerusalem Worship Centre in the New York City borough of Queens, said he had been vaccinated without incident.

"This site is being opened specifically for our community," Mr Rice said. "Every tube that's available for vaccination, you need to come and get it.

"We've seen what our communities look like fighting Covid without the vaccine and it's painful.

"I believe the vaccine is safe. It is the best tool to protect ourselves."