Push to bring COVID-19 vaccine into underserved neighborhoods

vaccine push
Posted at 11:10 PM, Feb 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 08:47:02-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Bi-weekly webinars to help educate people on the COVID-19 vaccine are far-reaching.

The webinars are organized by Gaylene Kanoyton. As president of Celebrate Healthcare, Kanoyton advocates for minorities and is continuing that work in her new role sitting on Virginia’s Vaccine Advisory Work Group.

“We are working hard to make sure everything is fair and equitable,” Kanoyton said. “We want to make sure everyone is educated.”

Black, Latino and Native American communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

Fewer people in those populations have been vaccinated compared to their white counterparts.

According to VDH, as of February 7, an estimated 202,072 people who are Black, Latino, Native American and other races have been vaccinated. In comparison, approximately 514,472 whites have had the shot.

The state is now trying to make the shot more accessible to those disproportionately impacted by bringing the vaccine into their neighborhoods.

“You can do mass vaccine distributions, but we need to get to the churches, the community centers where people can walk right down the street and they can get vaccinated,” Kanoyton said.

Dr. Danny Avula, who’s leading the state’s vaccination rollout said limited supply may be a major hurdle now but eventually it’ll be earning trust among diverse communities.

“At some point, the obstacle will be the hesitancy that exists in certain communities,” he said. “So, we’ll go from a high demand, low supply scenario to a high supply, lower demand scenario. We simultaneously need to do the continuous work of engaging those communities, helping them understand the clinical trials, helping them understand the data, because at the end of the day we need 75% to 80% of our population to get vaccinated, so we can stop the transmission of this disease.”

To do that, Dr. Avula said health departments will need to partner with local organizations and faith leaders.

“I think examples of a health department working with a NAACP to both get the word out and also to arrange transportation,” he said. “We’ve had examples where health departments have worked with large African American congregations to host sites in churches. That draws people because it’s a trusted place and a message coming from a trusted person.”

Meantime, Kanoyton is hoping to reach more people in underserved communities by launching a ‘Get out the vaccine’ similar to a “Get out the vote” (GOTV) campaign.

“I’m going to start weekly calls with faith leaders,” she said. “We’re going to do 30-minute calls on GOTV, get out the vaccine. I think it’s important we educate our faith leaders, educate our community leaders.”

Kanoyton said the massive vaccination effort takes the whole community pulling together.

“This is a huge undertaking,” she said. “We need everyone at the table. We need everyone to be patient.”

A vaccination event will be held at East End Baptist Church at 1056 Portsmouth Boulevard in Suffolk on Wednesday, Feb. 10 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.