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In minority communities, vaccine isn’t so simple

Posted

To the Editor:

I write to express my concern about Covid-19 vaccine access in communities of color on Long Island. As the coronavirus crisis lingers, the combination of two age-old realities — access and attitudes — persists in limiting vaccinations among people of color.

Most have heard about the infamous Tuskegee experiment, and the longstanding effects it has had on the Black community’s lack of trust in government and medical science. This distrust is deeply rooted and not easily overcome. Even as the most enlightened, well informed and educated among us conclude that it is in our best interest to get vaccinated against Covid-19, doubt and caution remain.

In conversations, meetings, podcasts and dinner discussions, however, the rationale for vaccination is being widely shared and considered. Unfortunately, getting past the roadblock of distrust leads us directly to the lack-of-accessibility barricade. When I made the decision to get the vaccine, my employer, the Family and Children’s Association, in Hempstead, helped me navigate access.

Nevertheless, there are many others in the Black and Brown communities less fortunate than I, who, even after overcoming initial doubt, encounter additional hurdles to vaccination, such as lack of transportation, an inability to navigate the online or phone scheduling “lottery,” and limited availability.

Although there are educational initiatives in place designed to alter community sentiment toward Covid-19 vaccines, the most effective change will come from civic leaders and trusted community voices addressing concerns and providing vital information through town hall meetings and leading by example.

Additionally, I believe that the restructuring of the vaccine distribution framework to include ongoing inoculation locations in communities of color, first-come-first-serve vaccination centers and expanded hours of service would greatly increase the number of vaccinations received by people of color in a relatively short time span.

Time is of the essence, and the health of our community is at stake.

Thurston O’Neal
Director, Hempstead Prevention Coalition