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Opinion | The Long Tail of Covid-19

When H.I.V. was believed to largely affect gay white men, many of them in big liberal cities and some of them famous, there was quite a bit of energy and media attention centered on finding a cure or treatment.

As treatments were developed and became widely available — including those that prevented transmission — infection rates among white people declined dramatically. So did media coverage. But at the same time, infection rates among Black people increased and still remain at epidemic proportions, even though treatments exist.

Could the same thing happen with this virus? Although there has been progress toward vaccine parity, Black and Hispanic people have received a disproportionately smaller share of vaccinations than have white people. Part of that is because of hesitancy, but part of it is also because of lack of access.

As NPR reported in April:

“While overall vaccination rates in Philadelphia are beginning to slow in the last couple of weeks, providers there — and echoed nationally — say the disparity between racial groups isn’t the result of people who are hesitant to get vaccinated. Instead, they say barriers such as the location of vaccination sites, online-only sign-ups, appointment scheduling, transportation and other planning and access issues are to blame.”

What will happen when the media attention fades, but the poverty and access issues don’t? Will this become another chronic disease in the Black community that the media largely ignores?

I, as much as anyone, am looking forward to the moment that the country can get back to more of a pre-Covid-19 normal. But I’m also conscious of the fact that others may not be returning to normal, and that the health and well-being of many Americans may be affected by this disease long after the country declares a victory.

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