How Black faith leaders help their communities get vaccinated

How Black faith leaders help their communities get vaccinated

Written by Robby Berman on March 30, 2021 — Fact checked by Rita Ponce, Ph.D.
Share on PinterestActor K.J. Rasheed sits in the observation area after receiving his second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church UCC on March 12, 2021, in Los Angeles, CA. The Providence popup vaccine clinic was held at the predominantly Black church as part of their health equity campaign in communities of color. Mario Tama/Getty Images

  • Although COVID-19 is most harshly affecting Black communities in the United States, vaccination rates in these communities remain very low.
  • A paper proposes that a coalition of Black faith leaders, public health officials, and Black medical professionals may be able to increase the number of people getting vaccinated.
  • A test of the proposed model in southern California’s San Bernardino Valley resulted in a measurable increase in the rate of vaccinations.

As vaccines become more readily available in the U.S., attention has turned to the task of getting as many people vaccinated as possible.

However, improving vaccination rates in Black communities can be particularly challenging, according to the authors of a paper in The Lancet Global Health.

The paper proposes a three-tiered model for improving vaccination rates in Black communities. It is an idea that is supported by the results of a test program targeted to the historically underserved Black community of southern California’s San Bernardino County.

This campaign led to setting up a mobile vaccination clinic in the parking lot of a San Bernardino church. During the 1-day event, the clinic vaccinated 417 individuals, 84% of whom were Black.

The paper also reports that focused education efforts led to an improvement in the percentage of Black individuals taking advantage of local mass vaccination clinics after the program. Their participation increased from 3% to 3.6% in the week that followed the mobile clinic vaccination event.

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A history of inequity

COVID-19 deaths among Black Americans are nearly double that of non-Hispanic white individuals, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC also report that the percentage of Black individuals who get vaccinated remains significantly lower than the percentage for non-Hispanic white individuals.

Black communities face a disproportionate number of barriers to vaccinations. As the paper notes, “The medical establishment in the [U.S.] has a long history of discrimination and exploitation against Black individuals.”

“This discrimination has resulted in lasting negative effects, such as healthcare hesitancy and distrust, which are deeply engrained in the consciousness of the community.”

– Dr. Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, et al.

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