Posted on January 4, 2021

Pharmacy Deserts Expose Racial and Socioeconomic Gap in Vaccine Access

Biba Adams, The Grio, December 25, 2020

Many are worried about COVID-19 vaccine distribution via pharmacies and grocery stores. Some areas have neither.

The racial disparities that contributed to the disproportionate deaths of Black Americans from COVID-19 may also play a part in the uneven distribution of the vaccine to prevent it.

Community advocates in Black and brown lower-income communities are concerned about plans to distribute the vaccine via pharmacies and grocery stores. Many of these areas do not have either.

“If they’re going to roll out a vaccine and they’re going to roll it out to grocery stores and pharmacies, I see a problem,” Chicago native Rochelle Sykes told CNN. “Is it going to be free? {snip}”


The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved to be distributed through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and major retail pharmacies like Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS, as well as national chain grocery stores.

But these stores are few and far between in low-income urban centers.

This is fueled by systemic racism, which leads more elderly or infirm Black people on Medicaid which pays for prescriptions at a lower rate than other insurers.