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Despite the cold and rain, hundreds of people in thick coats came to get vaccinated on Friday at the famous Yankees ballpark in the Bronx, a New York borough hit particularly badly by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s like a choice between life and death,” said Ines Figueroa, 64, a Bronx-resident Puerto Rican, after receiving the shot. Her husband died in January of complications related to the virus, which she also contracted, without developing symptoms.

The Bronx’s positivity rate is the highest in any of New York’s five boroughs: It was 6.67 percent on Friday, double that of the wealthier area of ​​Manhattan, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

For this reason, the authorities in this traditionally democratic bastion of the city have decided to reserve the vaccinations offered in the stadium exclusively for residents of the Bronx.

“Justice and Fairness”

Since the pandemic started in March last year, the death rate in the New York Black and Latino communities has been double that of the white communities.

The same racial differences have had an impact in the United States, where more than 453,000 people have died from the disease.

Yet the same minorities have received fewer vaccinations than other communities.

In New York, figures released on Sunday show that of the 500,000 vaccine doses already given, only 15 percent went to Hispanic Americans, despite making up 30 percent of the population of eight million people. And 11 percent went to African Americans, who make up 25 percent of the population.

“This is about justice. This is about fairness,” said left-wing mayor Bill de Blasio at the entrance to the stadium. “This is about protecting the people who need the most protection because the Bronx is one of the places that is bearing the brunt of this coronavirus crisis.”

Of the 15,000 appointments offered in the coming days, around 13,000 were given on Friday.

“Unsettling”

Although Yankees Stadium basically only offers vaccinations by appointment, many people didn’t have any on Friday. For many, the registration process is not up to date and requires a strong internet connection, good knowledge of English, and sometimes hours of patience.

After Manuel Rosario (76) had tried in vain for 15 days to get an appointment, he managed to get a shot into the stadium on Friday after a four-hour queue.

“There should be three more centers like this one in the Bronx,” said Rosario, who contracted COVID in April with no symptoms. At this rate, “they will all have vaccinated in two years,” he said.

This relative slowness in adoption due to a lack of vaccines has been confirmed across the country. For this reason, according to official information, only 8.4 percent of Americans have been vaccinated so far.

“It is deeply worrying that we are currently doing 400,000, 500,000 vaccinations a week and not receiving care,” said de Blasio.

Mistrust of the authorities, a flood of fake news that the vaccine is dangerous, or fear of arresting undocumented migrants had also contributed to the slow vaccination of minorities, according to experts.

“It has to work because we are all human and need the vaccine to survive,” says Manuel Rosario.

Mercedes Ferreras, a 73-year-old Dominican, came like him without an appointment on Friday. “I have a computer but I don’t know how to use it,” she explained.

The same was true for Fausto Lopez, 72, who came despite a friend trying to dissuade him and told him the vaccine would be an excuse to implant a chip that would turn him into a “robot”.

“There is too much false information,” said the retired cleaner, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and has already had seven operations.

“The vaccine will change my life,” he said.

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© 2021 AFP

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