How CA community, health leaders hope to eliminate vaccine rate disparities in Black communities

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
How CA leaders hope to improve vaccine rates in Black communities
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California continues to have the lowest COVID rates across the country but the relative success does reflect the health inequities for Black people.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California continues to have the lowest COVID rates across the country but the relative success does not necessarily account for the health inequities that people of color continue to experience.

People in the state's Black and African American communities continue to experience higher death and lower vaccination rates.

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"We have got to stop this, we have got to bring this to an end," said Dezie Woods Jones, the president of Black Women Organized for Political Action or BWOPA.

On Monday night, BWOPA launched a statewide campaign called "Black & Vaxxed" to boost vaccination rates in California's Black communities.

"Please find the nearest vaccination site, they're everywhere in our communities," pleaded Jones on the Zoom call.

Bay Area resident, Claude Powe, is still on oxygen after getting sick with COVID.

"My sister found me unconscious in my apartment on Aug. 3," said Powe, who feels he owes his life to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

RELATED: Vaccine distribution not equitable for Black people, Latinos in California, preliminary data shows

"The doctor told me a couple of weeks ago, had I not been vaccinated, we'd be having plans for my memorial," said Powe.

In Alameda County, just 58% of Black people 12 and older are fully vaccinated...compared to 63% of Latino people, 68% of White People, and 79% of Asian people.

"Here in Alameda County, we are working at a neighborhood level to identify those locations where people remain unvaccinated," said Alameda County Public Health Director, Kimi Watkins-Tartt, who spoke during the BWOPA meeting.

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

RELATED: Look at Bay Area ZIP codes receiving extra vaccines under state's new equity plan

"We often don't vaccinate a lot of people, but we always vaccinated 100% of the people we were looking for."

"I do have some understanding of their hesitancy," said Dr. Elaine Batchlor, the CEO of MLK community health care and hospital in South LA.

She wrote an article published in The Atlantic this month called, 'I'm a Black Doctor. My Mom Still Won't Get Vaccinated.'

"When the vaccines first came out, she looked at me and she said, well you know, they aren't going to give us the same vaccine. That's a reflection of the deep distrust."

In Los Angeles County, 53% of Black people have received at least one dose. In April, African American and Latino people were getting vaccinated at the same rate, but now LA's Black population lags behind every other ethnic group when it comes to vaccines rates.

RELATED: Biden doubles US global donation of COVID-19 vaccine shots to 1 billion Pfizer doses

Like in Alameda County, Dr. Batchlor says LA County and community partners have set up vaccination sites in churches, senior housing, schools, shopping centers - places that are easy for people to access. At pop-up vaccine clinics, she says there are often physicians to answer questions and concerns, and address myths and people's fears.

She also says motivating people with vaccine mandates and deadlines is important. "I think that for some people, either having an incentive or facing some type of consequence or constraint for not being vaccinated will motivate them. And I think we've got to do all of those things to help our communities reach a high level of vaccination."

Ultimately she says, "we need to go beyond today's crisis and recognize that, you know, these disparities didn't occur overnight. They've existed for decades, and that we need to reverse the root causes of those disparities," said Dr. Batchlor, who says they have great success at her 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 diversify the healthcare workforce if we're going to bring every community to the same level of opportunity for health."

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

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