Officials: Agencies must take steps to meet minority communities where they are

Vaccine administration in the black community in bond hill
Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 09:27:40-05

Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kestermann wants more COVID-19 vaccine doses handed out to public clinics and more private vaccine providers setting a portion of their shots aside for minority patients, he said Tuesday afternoon.

He and other local health leaders are among the few Cincinnatians who can measure the gap between different patient groups with hard numbers, and the distance can be startling.

Although the population of Hamilton County is about 25% Black, only around 11% of COVID-19 vaccines given inside the county have been administered to Black recipients.

And Black patients tend to fare worse than white if they develop COVID-19, thanks to widespread racial differences in household income, access to health care and the types of jobs patients work.

“Vaccine appointments often require things like Internet access, reliable transportation and flexible work schedules,” NPR host Ari Shapiro observed in a late January edition of All Things Considered.

He saw then what Hamilton County sees now: To ensure equal access to the shot, public health agencies must take extra steps to meet minority communities where they are.

In Cincinnati, health equity advocate Renee Mahaffey Harris is partnering her organization, The Health Gap, with churches, the Urban League community groups and the NAACP to direct Black Cincinnatians toward appointments.

These groups are helping people without computers sign up for appointments, ensuring vaccine sites are accessible and even providing rides to patients who need them.

Kestermann, the Hamilton County Health commissioner, encouraged anyone in need of a ride to a vaccine site to call the United Way at 211 and see if they can get help from them.