WISCONSIN— Disparities along racial lines continue to be an issue across the country. This is especially true when it comes to COVID-19 deaths and access to the vaccine. 

Dr. Melanie Gray with Aurora Health says a lot of coronavirus-centric problems for people of color can be boiled down to access issues, both before diagnosis and after. 

"One of the most significant causes of the disparities is the lack of having a medical home," Dr. Gray said.

Underlying conditions that lead to severe reactions to COVID-19 are often undiagnosed or not treated because some communities have less access to medical care providers or lack trust in the healthcare field. That leads to many only seeking help in emergencies. Also, many may not have health insurance, or a primary care doctor, further worsening health outcomes and inability to quickly access the vaccine.

Dr. Gray says those issues are being addressed but encouraged all communities to continue to seek the vaccine. She says getting the vaccine was a personal decision that required taking into account many factors. 

"I weighed the outcome," she said. Dr. Gray asked herself, "'What would be the risk to me getting COVID, versus me getting the vaccine?'"

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Dr. Gray says the vaccine has shown minimal risk, along with great returns on reducing the possibility of sickness or death if you contract COVID. 

Meanwhile, without the vaccine, the country has experienced more than 500,000 deaths. People may have mild to severe symptoms that can lead to stroke, weakness, long-term brain fog, breathing issues, among other intense side effects. 

Dr. Gray says receiving the vaccine was the optimal option, and that communities around the globe will get the chance to have their doses. 

"Everyone who is getting the vaccine is around the world is getting the same vaccine whether it is Pfizer or Moderna."

Open availability is not expected for vaccines until late spring or early summer.