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Coronavirus Files: POC miss out on business loans; vaccine plans for the less-than-eager

Coronavirus Files: POC miss out on business loans; vaccine plans for the less-than-eager

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Since last April, The Center for Health Journalism has been publishing a special newsletter geared to journalists as they report on one of the biggest and most complex stories of our times. Each Monday, while the pandemic runs its course, The Coronavirus Files will provide tips and resources and highlight exemplary work to help you with your coverage. This week, the Center for Health Journalism’s Coronavirus Files Monday newsletter is curated and reported by science writer Amber Dance, PhD. Have a suggestion or a request? Write us at editor@centerforhealthjournalism.org.

Business owners of color less likely to benefit from federal aid

Black-, Latinx-, and Asian-owned businesses were much less likely than white-owned ones to benefit from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to an in-depth investigation by the Los Angeles Times and Reveal (a platform of the Center for Investigative Reporting). PPP loans were supposed to help small businesses and independent entrepreneurs as well as large corporations, and Congress ordered priority for underserved areas. According to the investigators’ analysis of more than 5 million loans, that didn’t happen. In large metro areas across the nation, white-owned businesses were more likely to score funds. In Los Angeles, for example, five major banks made loans to almost one-quarter of businesses in majority-white regions, 20% in Asian areas, 16% in Black communities and 11 % in Latinx regions. Banks, overwhelmed by applications, “failed to live up to the goals of a 44-year-old federal law that requires them to equitably serve all communities where they do business,” according to Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a fair-lending group. And Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition noted that because business ownership is a key method to build wealth, the effects are likely to ripple through communities of color for generations.

 

Vaccination programs pivot with July 4 hopes

If people keep getting vaccinated and viral variants don’t throw a kink in the works, a new CDC analysis predicts a sharp downturn in cases by July. But with vaccination rates stagnating, there’s work to be done. More than 57% of U.S. adults have started a COVID-19 vaccine course, and more than 110 million are fully covered, according to CDC. President Joe Biden now wants to reach a goal of 70% adults starting a course, and 160 million Americans completing immunization, by Independence Day.

 

That could be a challenge; the latest poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that just 9% of the population is still eager for a vaccine but hasn’t had one yet. “There are millions of Americans who just need a little bit of encouragement to get that shot,” Biden said. So vaccine programs are making changes. For the federal distribution program, that means if a state doesn’t order its full weekly share, those doses will be made available to other states that want them. The administration is now sending vaccines to rural clinics, and investing about $730 million in outreach efforts, reports STAT. The “long grind” to community vaccination means knocking on doors, mobile clinics, and vaccines provided by family doctors, writes Ken Alltucker at USA Today. The new approach should improve vaccine access in underserved communities, reports The New York Times. Dr. Karen Landers, state health officer in Alabama, told the Times, “We are not giving up.”

Pfizer vaccines for kids coming

 

Pfizer headlined vaccine news last week with a variety of encouraging announcements. Emergency authorization of its vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 is widely expected this week, with the CDC’s vaccine committee scheduled to meet Wednesday. With children now accounting for more than one-fifth of cases, and the U.S. education secretary planning for in-person learning nationwide by fall, many parents are thrilled. “This is the best day in the history of days!!! I love this day!!!” commented one mom, according to AP.
 
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also told investors he’s confident the company will be able to request authorization for ages 2 through 11 by September, and 6 months to two years by the end of 2021, though trials are not yet complete. The company has also requested the FDA update its status from emergency authorization to full-scale approval. The complete stamp of approval, which requires six months’ worth of data on safety and efficacy, could encourage more people to get vaccinated — and make it more feasible for employers to mandate vaccination, notes Erika Edwards at NBC News.
 
Moderna also announced last week that its vaccine is 96% effective in teens aged 12 through 17. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that about 29% of parents would get their children vaccinated immediately upon authorization, with 32% in the wait-and-see camp.
 
From the Center for Health Journalism
 
 
Apply now for 2021 National Fellowship
 
As public health officials like to say, “COVID-19 isn't done with us.” And journalists know that we’re not done with COVID-19. Apply by May 17 for five days (July 19-23) of stimulating discussions on the pandemic's disproportionate impact on people of color — plus reporting and engagement grants of $2k-$10k and five months of mentoring while you work on an ambitious project.
 
What we're reading
  • “We still don’t know who the coronavirus’s victims were,” by Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic
  • “Inmates sent home during COVID-19 got jobs, started school. Now, they face possible return to prison,” by Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
  • “Reaching ‘herd immunity’ is unlikely in the U.S., experts now believe,” by Apoorva Mandavilli, The New York Times
  • “The logic of Biden’s new July 4 vaccination goal,” by German Lopez, Vox
  • “Why a former anti-vax influencer got her COVID-19 shot,” by Tara Haelle, Texas Monthly

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