City councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell criticized Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, calling on her administration to speed up its vaccination efforts.
“It’s taking too long,” Campbell said outside Morning Star Baptist Church in Mattapan, one of the neighborhood’s vaccination sites. “If we take too long to respond in the way that’s necessary to protect residents, we will ... go backwards.”
Mattapan has the lowest percentage of vaccinated residents among Boston neighborhoods, according to city figures. As of Aug. 3, just 41 percent of residents had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. All other neighborhoods had crossed the 50 percent threshold, ranging from the South End at 73 percent to the Fenway at 52 percent.
Specialists attribute the low rate to misinformation about the vaccine and a lack of trust in government.
Campbell has introduced plans to curb the increase in COVID-19 cases, calling for city workers to be vaccinated or face weekly testing, proof of vaccination in “crowded public indoor areas,” $100 vaccine incentives, improving air quality in public schools, and testing all public school students and staff.
Campbell said Janey’s administration has not committed to a vaccine or testing mandate for city workers or incentives similar to those introduced in New York City last week. Since offering these incentives, New York City’s vaccination rate has risen by 40 percent, Campbell said.
“This is a comprehensive approach that needs to be adopted immediately by the acting mayor,” she said.
Last week, Janey said her administration is “working toward” a vaccination mandate for city workers while expressing concern that a requirement could disproportionately impact people of color. But Campbell said vaccination mandates are for the greater good.
“It’s not about discriminating against residents,” Campbell said. “This is about protecting them and protecting the larger public.”
“We need a leader that ... is not just offering up information that’s just not relevant to the conversation,” she added.
Campbell has stepped up her criticism of Janey’s handling of the pandemic in recent days.
“The acting mayor’s thinking on this is backwards,” Campbell said in a statement last week. “The path forward must include measures to keep people safe and a robust public education campaign to get more people vaccinated — especially in communities like Mattapan and East Boston.”
My statement on the acting mayor's inaction on implementing life saving measures in high transmission areas, such as providing proof of vaccination for crowded indoor areas - as seen in NYC. pic.twitter.com/RMH6KqfxGl— Andrea J. Campbell (@andreaforboston) August 5, 2021
Janey’s campaign manager, Kirby Chandler, said the acting mayor has led successful vaccination efforts since her appointment.
“Mayor Janey has been a leader in Boston’s fight against COVID-19 and for the equitable distribution of the vaccine from the moment she walked into office,” Chandler said in a statement. “She has been laser-like focused on addressing the health care and vaccine access disparities that affect communities of color.”
Janey dedicated $3 million to encourage vaccinations in areas hard hit by the pandemic and launched a multilingual public awareness campaign encouraging residents to be immunized, Chandler said. As of last week, more than two-thirds of Boston residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Campbell said her calls for a more aggressive response to a surge in cases fueled by the Delta variant were not about politics but about saving lives.
“We don’t want folks to die, and we don’t want to have to start closing down restaurants because we didn’t take the right steps in an immediate time frame,” Campbell said. “And that time frame is long gone.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Massachusetts has reported 678,544 COVID-19 cases as of Aug. 6, according to state data. There have been 17,727 deaths.
Tiana Woodard is a Report for America corps member covering Black neighborhoods. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.