health disparities

Black, Asian Populations Still Lagging in Vaccination Rates

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“This is personal for me. Our congregation lost over 10 people to COVID,” said Pastor Kristopher Reese, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Waterbury.  “We had a family last April to lose four members in 48 hours and so this is very personal and painful for me.”

On Friday his church hosted a pop-up vaccine clinic for 100 community members, reaching some who were having trouble getting an appointment.

“I knew they were going to have it in my church, I jumped right on it,” said Linard Jordan.

“We called last weekend and they told us we would have to come to Hartford so that was too far,” said James Bowen of Waterbury.

Travel and technology issues are some of the barriers to vaccine access in communities the CDC says are socially vulnerable.

“Earlier this month we saw the data that shows the municipalities who are lower income or less well to-do or are in the urban centers are not getting the vaccine, or having the same vaccination rates as the suburbs,” said Tekisha Everette, the executive director of Health Equity Solutions.

Those first dose vaccination rates grew steadily in February. They’re up at least 70% among white and Hispanic populations, and 80% among Black people.

But Black, Asian and Indigenous people are still far behind in total numbers of vaccinations.  Among white residents, 324,211 received a first dose, while that number is 20,480 for Black people.

“If you are a person of color in Connecticut, you’re falling behind on vaccine rates. And that’s just the bottom line. We need to do better in our state to use strategies that work to reach the people,” said Everette.

She says that would be engaging people in vaccine conversations, offering more pop-up clinics, and having more community ambassadors, like Reese who was vaccinated last week.

“Once they heard that, then they became excited. That if pastor is was vaccinated then I have no problem getting a vaccination, so it’s actually excitement over the vaccination,” said Reese.  

Faith leaders say they’re hearing more of that excitement for the vaccine than fear. Everette says there’s a danger in the single belief that people of color have vaccine hesitancy, when she says some just didn’t want to be first.

“I think what we’re seeing in the numbers is a lack of access and a lack of availability. Not hesitancy,” said Everette.

She says as more clinics grow across the state, expanding hours for working people and families could also increase access.

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