Philly is trying to bridge vaccine gaps by targeting hard-hit neighborhoods. Finally, activists and experts say.

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Created Date

April 2, 2020 - 1:00pm


Contributed date

April 2, 2021 - 8:01pm

Critical Commentary

This article discusses the digital divide and how a vaccination have proven to increase it even more than the pandemic already has. It opens with by discussing Jeff Harris, 65, and how he was registered after a group of activists went door to door registering people. Harris explained that not many people have internet in his Huntington Park neighborhood. The article goes on to explain that "Philadelphians of color have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the city, according to an Inquirer analysis of city-provided zip-code-level data. The 16 zip codes with the lowest vaccination rates in the city are dominated by residents of color. Those least-vaccinated zip codes also tend to be among those that have suffered higher case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths." (Laughlin and Lai, 2021).


This article is an exemplary example of internet vulnerability as part of energy vulnerability (Vulnerability is defined here as put within the proximity of or at risk of danger to your health and wellbeing). Without access to the internet, those who are eligible may put themselves at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19. The article also explains how systemic racism plays a role in energy vulnerability by citing an earlier study that about half of African American households in Philadelphia did not have internet access.

The new initiative to get Philadelphians vaccinated involves allowing vaccinations without appointments, scheduling appointments over the phone, and assembling a team led by women who had previously helped improve the city's participation rate in the 2020 census. The city also announced the opening of a new clinic in Philadelphia, which is expected to administer between 1,500 and 2,000 shots a day.

The systemic racism faced by African Americans and Hispanic residents of Philadelphia is evident by the vaccine rates. According to the article "Just 14% of Philadelphia’s Hispanic residents and 16% of its non-Hispanic Black population have been vaccinated. About 30% of white Philadelphians are fully vaccinated."


The article also presents compelling evidence that scheduling appointments through the internet is one of the biggest hurdles minority populations face in getting appointments. Prior to allowing walk in appointments for residents of under vaccinated zip codes, Philadelphia officials notes that a disproportionate number of vaccines distributed at the convention center went to white residents. After allowing for walk ins, the rate of vaccinations among Africans Americans rose significantly.


The city's first attempt to allow the public up for a vaccine registry required internet access, already setting the city's vaccine strategy down a path that would benefit white residents disproportionately.


State representative Elizabeth Fielder again shows how internet vulnerability leads to individuals being put at unnecessary risk. While traveling door to door to sign up eligible residents in South Philadelphia.

“We’re hearing from a lot of people — older people, people who don’t have computer access — who did not know whether they qualified and or they did not know how to sign up,” she said.

It's not necessarily the case that older minority populations are less likely to take the vaccine out of hesitancy as it is that they simply are unaware they are eligible due to lack of internet access.


Laughlin, J., & Lai, J. (2021, April 02). Philly is Trying to Bridge Vaccine Gaps by Targeting Hard-hit Neighborhoods. Finally, Activists and Experts Say. Retrieved from



Cite as

Jason Laughlin and Jonathan Lai, 2 April 2020, "Philly is trying to bridge vaccine gaps by targeting hard-hit neighborhoods. Finally, activists and experts say.", contributed by Andrew Rosenthal, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 1 May 2021, accessed 21 June 2024.