Despite nationwide outreach efforts, vaccinations lag behind in black communities


Valerie Shannon, 48, says being able to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma means everything to her. She will do whatever it takes to get it, she said.

So she enrolled in a program at the Goodwill Excel Center, a public charter school in Northwest Washington to earn a GED.

A requirement imposed by the city to complete the program is that she be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but when a vaccination team from the DC Department of Health came to the school and offered her one, she hesitated. .

“I know I need to get it,” she said. “I’m going, well, I have to, if I want to continue here, but honestly, I’m just scared.”

Derek Daniels, 38, a center youth success coach got it, but only, he said, because District of Columbia mayor Muriel E. Bowser ordered that he and d other city workers get vaccinated in early November, if they wish. keep their job.

“There was always so much information,” Daniels said. “One week they said do this, and the next week they took it back. It was never made clear to me. If I had had the choice I wouldn’t have had it, but I love my job, so here we are.

Nationally, DC, states and municipalities have invested millions in incentives and partnered with health systems and community organizations to get more people immunized

In Alabama, getting the vaccine was immediately rewarded with a chance to drive a car on the famous Talladega Superspeedway. In Arkansas, state officials were handing out $ 20 lottery tickets.

In California, authorities organized a lottery for 10 vaccinated to win $ 1.5 million each. In Hawaii, those vaccinated could win one of 50 round-trip tickets offered by American Airlines.

In Illinois, adult vaccine recipients could participate in a $ 7 million cash prize pool as well as three $ 1 million cash prizes and in Oregon, 36 people could walk away with $ 10,000, a for each county.

In the nation’s capital, children between the ages of 12 and 17 could receive $ 51 gift cards, inflatable pods, iPads or a $ 25,000 college scholarship or iPads if they were vaccinated from August 7 to August 30. September.

But despite those efforts and the vaccination mandates of President Biden, governors, mayors and big business, the pace of vaccines has all but slowed in black communities, outreach workers said.

In Richmond, for example, outreach workers said they were lucky if they vaccinated 10 to 15 people on a good day, even though statistics show African Americans have significantly lower vaccination rates. When they started in earnest in March, they averaged into the thousands a day, they said.

At a food bank in Washington where workers were offering free vaccines on a recent Saturday, clinicians received so few requests for vaccines that they had to keep bringing the drug back to the freezer to keep it from spoiling.

At another location nearby, it was a similar situation, said Bonnie Harris, a vaccine awareness worker in the Department of Family Medicine at Howard University College of Medicine. Only three people had consented to a vaccination within an hour.

Harris, who goes out three or more times a week, said they were lucky if they vaccinated five people.

Just over 59% of Washington residents are fully immunized, health officials said. Only 33% of African Americans are fully vaccinated, they noted. African Americans make up less than half of the city’s population, but they account for 76% of the lives lost since the start of the pandemic.

In Baltimore, vaccination rates are extremely low, especially in black and Latino communities, said Ryan Moran, assistant vice president of care transformation for MedStar Health, a conglomerate of hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices. that serve over half a million people each year in Maryland and the Washington, DC area.

“The numbers right now are daunting, but we view every hit in the arm as progress,” Moran said. “When they’re ready, we’ll be there.”

In Fulton County, Georgia, which has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the state, Karen Rene ‘, program director and second vice president of the NAACP Atlanta branch, coordinates a large awareness effort

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the branch a $ 2 million grant to coordinate vaccination campaigns in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New Orleans, Dallas and Norfolk, Rene said.

Rene ‘, who is also a city councilor in East Point, Georgia, said the organization was creating videos of public service announcements to broadcast in cities.

He also works with social media influencers to reach young African Americans and coordinates with organizations in every city to link immunization efforts to local events.

For example, in Chicago, they worked with an outdoor concert to make vaccinations part of the event. In Atlanta, she said, they sponsor their own vaccination concert.

Educating residents and building trust, she said, are key to seeing change, especially in parts of Atlanta with vaccination rates below 3%.

“We have to meet them where they are,” she said, “even when it literally means holding their hand, taking them across the street to get the shot and start all over again when they get back. “

Temple of Praise Baptist Church in Southeast Washington has become the home of Victoria Park, 59, an assistant nurse, and Benita Bryan, 52, licensed practical nurse, owners of 5 Medicine, over the years. last five months.

Their company, other faith communities and the DC Health Department are partners in the “Faith in the Vaccine” program to provide COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and education.

“We had three today, a first shooter and two second shooters,” Park said. “That’s three more than a lot of days. For everyone that we get or that we progress, we are pushed back 10 steps.

“The fight against disinformation has honestly been the core of our work. “

“Better educating people from the start would have helped a lot, especially in these communities where there is so much mistrust. It’s easier to believe what you’ve heard or seen on social media.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington offers vaccines to family members of their pediatric patients.

Dr. Janine Rethy, division chief of community pediatrics, runs a pediatric mobile medical clinic that gives injections to eligible children on Tuesdays.

Rethy said they haven’t vaccinated many residents.

“We strive to create a space where they can get any question answered,” she said. “Our approach considers how to reach them in a way that is comfortable and breeds confidence.”

Andrea Coleman, 32, took her 12-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter to the Ronald McDonald Mobile Clinic at Kelly Miller Middle School to catch up on their required school vaccines. All three left after receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I was hesitant at first when they proposed it,” Coleman said. “But they answered all of my questions and made me feel comfortable.”

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