In a stunning display of retail redlining, the primary corporations chosen by the State of Michigan and Federal government for COVID-19 vaccine rollout are not active or accessible across Detroit. Even those located in the city limited where they would offer vaccines with Walgreens and Rite Aid locations in Midtown clustering with no access or limited access in Detroit’s neighborhoods. CVS is only offering vaccines at 4 locations in all of Michigan with one located in Detroit.
Retail redlining and discrimination is nothing new. Door-to-door magazine sales companies practiced “bluelining” where they avoided “foreign-speaking or colored people.” The Home Owner Loan Corporation maps adapted by the Federal Housing Administration and private mortgage companies created the basis for redlining, or not approving mortgages in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Historical mapping of Green Book locations also present an important delineation of retail discrimination. Retail redlining has most often been applied to analyses of grocery and supermarket locations, which is an inequitable trend seen in metro Detroit too.
Leading up to the Great Recession, “reverse redlining” where Black homeowners in Detroit were targeted for faulty mortgage products followed by nearly no mortgages originating in Detroit. More recently there have been questions about redlining related to Pokemon Go and expanding interest in the concept as it relates to present day health outcomes.
The City of Detroit, local health system hospitals, and other partners offer a few vaccination locations outside of these specific retail locations (Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, Sam’s Club, Walmart). In a pandemic response supposedly driven by equity, one would assume more forethought for vaccine distribution partners in Michigan’s hardest hit city.