On Jan. 25, Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu proposed legislation that would require a more equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine across Boston. The ordinance would require at least one vaccination site in each residential neighborhood. The Mass Media conducted an interview via email with Councilor Wu regarding her proposal:
The Mass Media: How has the pandemic affected you and your community, and how did that inspire you to file this legislation?
Michelle Wu: I live in a multigenerational household—with my partner and our two sons upstairs, and my mom downstairs. As a Boston Public Schools mom, I’ve been living the stress of balancing work with supervising remote learning even as we are fortunate to have some flexibility to work from home, and my family has been extremely aware of needing to be careful and protect my mom, who lives with mental health challenges. In this public health crisis, if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s just how connected we all are to each other and what we can do when we truly decide to confront our challenges head on. To protect our community members, recover from this pandemic and build a Boston for everyone, we need to ensure a safe, rapid, and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s why I filed this ordinance to ensure a vaccination site in every neighborhood that’s open at times that are convenient for working families—because we know that if we don’t act now, we’ll continue to reproduce the same racial inequities that have left our Black, Latinx and other communities of color bearing the loss and heaviest burden of this pandemic.
MM: How will this legislation ensure that vaccine recipients return for their second dosage of the vaccination?
MW: Especially because this protection requires two separate doses and trips to receive those vaccinations, it’s essential to remove all barriers to accessibility and make this as convenient as possible to fit into families’ complex lives.
MM: A study involving UMass Boston researchers revealed that almost 50 percent of Black Bostonians definitely or probably do not plan to get the vaccine, while over one in four Latinx respondents answered in the same way. How will your legislation combat this hesitancy among communities of color to receive the vaccine?
MW: Given the long history of medical disenfranchisement of Black, Latinx, and other residents of color, Boston’s public officials and employers must work proactively to build trust in the vaccine across all communities. Part of that work includes guaranteeing access to vaccination sites in every Boston zip code, at times that fit families’ lives, and with workplace protections for residents to receive paid sick time to rest and, if necessary, recover from any side effects they may experience. Building trust in communities of color means increasing access to health care, making testing and vaccination free and accessible, and working with community health centers and other neighborhood-based organizations who are trusted messengers in their communities. Neighborhoods like Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and East Boston shouldn’t be vaccine deserts—they should be prioritized in vaccine rollout.
MM: How is this legislation beneficial to UMass Boston?
MW: UMass Boston is a microcosm of our city in representing the full range of our diversity. We know that Boston’s higher education community is made up of parents and guardians, full-time workers, and others with family and community responsibilities, in addition to their academic workload. To meet the needs of the UMass Boston community and ensure a rapid and equitable process, we must be intentional about prioritizing communities of color that have seen the greatest risk during this pandemic.
To read the full ordinance, visit: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iyjShZkc9I_Nrm_4rYxICR8JhnMI6gUm/view
To see Michelle Wu’s campaign page, visit: https://www.michelleforboston.com/