Murphys equity excuse on vaccine passports is flimsy

Murphy’s ‘equity’ excuse on vaccine passports is flimsy. Gov. Phil Murphy says vaccination rates in Black and brown communities are lagging and is using this as a rationale not to impose vaccine passports like in New York City.

“We’re still not punching at the weight we need to punch in Black and brown communities,” he told the Star-Ledger editorial board. “We’re doggedly on that. We’ve made progress. But I don’t feel we’re there yet. I don’t want to inadvertently put something in place that’s discriminatory.”

But the more you drill down on this, the weaker his argument is.

First, solid evidence shows the racial gap on vaccines is either closed or closing fast, depending on which data you’re looking at. In a September survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of white adults, 70 percent of Black adults and 73 percent of Hispanic adults said they had gotten at least one shot.

In New Jersey, the statistics are unreliable, because many people didn’t answer this race and ethnicity question. But even that data shows a closing of the gap. And people of color are no longer a disproportionate share of those hospitalized and dying of covid in our state, which shows that more are getting vaccinated.

So where exactly is this equity problem that Murphy says is blocking him from taking the next obvious step in fighting this pandemic, a passport system like the one in New York City, where you must show proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant, museum, or other venue?

In fact, a passport system is a promising way to help close the remaining gap, to the extent that there is one, say public health experts like Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist at Montclair State University. And even within the Black community, leading voices say they’re not seeing significant resistance to vaccines or mandates.

“I’m not seeing any pushback to it,” said Rev. Charles Boyer, a prominent advocate on racial justice issues. “In fact, most people don’t even want to be in spaces where there could potentially be any quantity of people who aren’t vaccinated.” Another survey from Kaiser in September bears this out: In fact, a larger share of Black and Hispanic adults say employers should require workers to get vaccinated, compared to white adults.

Yes, we must ensure shots remain widely accessible and seniors aren’t hampered by technological glitches, Boyer said. But a passport system isn’t discriminatory. The leading cause of death for Black people in 2020 in New Jersey was COVID-19. “Most of us are just tired of this pandemic and are really concerned about the enormity of death,” he said.

Rev. Randall Lassiter of the Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson agreed resistance to mandates has been “very minimal.” Was there hesitancy at first? Yes, he said — but people of color moved forward and got vaccinated: “It wasn’t place-a-stake in the ground, and we’re going to fight on this issue.”

The face of this crisis has changed since the early days, and it’s clearly within all our reach to do better. Several predominately minority cities, including Paterson and Elizabeth, are matching the state average on vaccination rates and beating some neighboring suburbs.

So, if a gap still exists, why not take a page from these cities, and fix it, instead of using it as an excuse to sit around and do nothing on vaccine passports. This reeks of politics, a safe play during an election campaign. And that’s bad public health policy.

“I’m not sure how much of it is truly coming from those communities that are impacted, and how much of this is a political talking point,” Dr. Silvera says.

It is partisan politics, not race, that is now the dividing line on vaccines. Only 58 percent of Republicans said they’ve had at least one shot.

The death of Colin Powell, who suffered from blood cancer — which devastates the immune system — only further demonstrates the importance of expanding vaccine mandates, and the cost of waiting. Ensuring that everybody else gets vaccinated helps protect society’s most vulnerable from breakthrough infections; people of all races.

Black and Hispanic people have already suffered the most from COVID-19. We should not expose more of them to this virus, while using them as an excuse not to do something political. Here’s a prediction: We’ll get passports after the election.

Kyrsten Sinema won her US Senate seat largely by blaming an incumbent for supporting “huge tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations,” and vowing to help a Democratic majority roll back the Trump tax cuts, 83 percent of which benefit the top 1%.

Yet now she has rejected any tax hike on corporations or high earners to pay for President Biden’s “Build Back Better” package, and that alone could tank the entire agenda.

The massive legislative package – and with it, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill – cannot pass without the votes of the inscrutable Arizonan and fellow holdout Sen. Joe Manchin, and nobody is sure how the pay-fors will be worked out.

But one difference worth noting is this: Manchin has explicit, articulated objections to the bill, works to moderate it, and supports repealing the Trump tax cuts. Sinema won’t allow Biden to raise the top income tax rate (from 37% to 39.6) and the corporate rate (from 21% to 28), and she won’t say why adding debt is better than making the wealthy pay their fair share.

Along the way, she seems to relish her role as chaos agent, and since returning from a recent fundraiser in Paris, the White House has slashed the bill to pieces almost daily, trying to get her on board.

Sinema got them to limit the expanded Child Tax Credit to a single year – a bizarre demand for someone who was once homeless herself.

She reportedly killed the provision to lower prescription drug prices – no surprise there, since she has taken $400,000 from Big Pharma.

She demanded that they whack $100 billion off the bill’s climate programs, even as her home state is suffering the country’s worst drought, while takes $900,000 from industry groups trying to kill the Biden plan.

She reportedly is also behind free community college being dropped from the package. That was a $45.5 billion investment, roughly what the US spent every year to occupy Afghanistan, and it would have benefitted 8 million students.

Five military veterans on her advisory board resigned Thursday, slamming her as one of the “principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people,” adding that “your failure to stand by your people and see their urgent needs is alarming.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.