Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu is calling for at least one COVID-19 vaccination site in each of the city’s residential zip codes, in an effort aimed at combating the stark disparities in vaccine access for the region’s Black and Latino residents.
The measure, which is expected to be discussed at this Wednesday’s council meeting, calls for city officials to work with local hospitals, health care providers, and pharmacies to make that happen. Wu also wants the opening of new vaccination sites to be prioritized in neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic and for public vaccination sites to also offer testing to city residents free of charge.
“This is the most urgent step we need to be taking to end the pandemic: ensuring that our residents are vaccinated and safe,” said Wu on Monday.
A recent Globe analysis found that if you are Black or Latino and living in Suffolk County, you are more likely to have to travel farther than white residents for a coveted dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In Suffolk County, which includes Boston as well as Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Black and Latino residents face stark disparities in vaccine access: Fewer than 14 percent of Black residents and roughly 26 percent of Latinos live in census tracts that are within 1 mile of a vaccination site, compared with nearly 46 percent of white residents.
Currently, the only public vaccination site in the county is at the South Boston Community Health Center. In her proposal, Wu said that site is located in a census tract where only 6 percent of the residents are Black and 11 percent are Hispanic. A mass vaccination site at Fenway Park is slated to open Feb. 1 for prioritized groups. Another mass vaccination site, at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, is expected to open the first week of February.
Wu, who is running for mayor, also wants at least one vaccination site per neighborhood to operate during early morning, evening, and weekend hours to accommodate workers who have non-traditional schedules.
Her proposal calls for city officials to create an online interface for vaccination appointments that would allow residents to view all available appointments at vaccination sites across the city and for city authorities to provide weekly reports on details of such sites as well as who is receiving the vaccines.
Wu’s proposal comes as Massachusetts — celebrated as a national health care leader — ranks in the bottom half of US states in getting injections into the arms of its residents. Her proposal is expected to be discussed at Wednesday’s council meeting.
Massachusetts trails every other New England state, as well as New York, in the number of vaccine doses administered per capita, according to federal figures. Fewer than 5.4 percent of Massachusetts residents had been inoculated as of Friday, compared to 8 percent of residents in Connecticut, over 10 percent in West Virginia, and 11 percent in Alaska.
Wu said that while the state is in charge of the overall vaccine distribution for Massachusetts, state authorities must coordinate with local officials in order to “stand up” distribution sites. City authorities should be advocating to remove barriers to access as part of that process, she said on Monday.
“This is step we need to get right and we are failing in this moment,” Wu said. “The city of Boston has to come through with specific steps to require equitable access to vaccinations.”
Equity in vaccine distribution is turning into an issue of importance in the ongoing Boston mayoral campaign.
Wu’s fellow mayoral candidate and city council colleague, Andrea Campbell, has made access to COVID-19 vaccines a central plank of her pandemic policy plan. She has advocated for the city to “build trust and confidence in communities across Boston, and deploy evidence-based policy grounded in science.”
Campbell filed a request for a hearing regarding COVID-19 vaccines in December. That hearing is expected to occur in the next few weeks.
City health officials on Monday reiterated that the state controls the distribution of vaccine doses and determines who can administer them. Boston, officials said, is committed to making sure there is equitable access to vaccines.
Additionally, a top state public health official warned Massachusetts cities and towns Sunday night that their shipments of COVID-19 vaccine doses will be “capped going forward through February” because the federal government is not making enough doses available.
There are currently more than 150 COVID-19 vaccination sites across Massachusetts. Most are for first responders, and the remainder for other groups prioritized in Phase One of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, such as health care workers and staff of congregate care facilities, such as shelters and group homes.
Deanna Pan, John Hancock, Kay Lazar, Travis Andersen, and Robert Weisman of Globe staff contributed to this report.