How California Community and Health Leaders Hope to End Immunization Rate Disparities in Black Communities

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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – California continues to have the lowest COVID rates in the country, but relative success doesn’t necessarily take into account the health inequalities that people of color continue to experience.

Members of the state’s Black and African American communities continue to experience higher death rates and lower vaccination rates.

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“We have to stop this, we have to end it,” said Dezie Woods Jones, president of Black Women Organized for Political Action or BWOPA.

On Monday evening, BWOPA launched a statewide campaign called “Black & Vaxxed” to increase vaccination rates in black communities in California.

“Please find the nearest vaccination site, they are all over our communities,” Jones pleaded during the Zoom call.

Bay Area resident Claude Powe is still on oxygen after falling ill with COVID.

“My sister found me unconscious in my apartment on August 3,” said Powe, who believes he owes his life to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

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“The doctor told me a few weeks ago that if I hadn’t been vaccinated we would have plans for my memorial,” Powe said.

In Alameda County, only 58% of blacks aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated … compared to 63% of Latinos, 68% of whites and 79% of Asians.

“Here in Alameda County, we are working at the neighborhood level to identify places where people are not vaccinated,” said Alameda County Public Health Director Kimi Watkins-Tartt, who s ‘is expressed at the BWOPA meeting.

She told ABC7 News reporter Kate Larsen that Alameda County is coordinating people to go door to door, dispel myths and connect patients with health care providers. She says it’s working, albeit slowly.

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“A lot of times we don’t vaccinate a lot of people, but we’ve always vaccinated 100% of the people we were looking for. “

“I understand their hesitation,” said Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of MLK Hospital and Community Health Care in South LA.

She wrote an article published in The Atlantic this month titled, ‘I’m a black doctor. My mom still won’t get the vaccine. ‘

“When the vaccines first came out, she looked at me and she said, well, you know, they’re not going to give us the same vaccine. It’s a reflection of the deep mistrust.”

In Los Angeles County, 53% of blacks have received at least one dose. In April, African Americans and Latinos were getting vaccinated at the same rate, but now LA’s black population lags behind all other ethnic groups when it comes to vaccination rates.

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As in Alameda County, Dr Batchlor says LA County and community partners have set up vaccination sites in churches, senior residences, schools, shopping malls – easy places to go. ‘access for people. At pop-up vaccination clinics, she says there are often doctors there to answer questions and concerns, and address people’s myths and fears.

She also says it’s important to motivate people with immunization mandates and deadlines. “I think for some people, being pressured or facing some kind of consequence or coercion to not get vaccinated will motivate them. And I think we have to do all of these things to help our communities achieve a high level of immunization. . “

Ultimately, she said, “we have to move beyond the current crisis and recognize that, you know, these disparities did not happen overnight. They have been around for decades and we have to reverse the causes. deep in these disparities, ”said Dr Batchlor, who says he is very successful in his hospital because there are so many people of color treating other people of color in the community.

“I think it’s really important for us to eliminate the disparities in quality and access, and to diversify the health workforce if we are to bring every community to the same level of health opportunity.”

VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get the coronavirus vaccine

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