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Mississippi’s efforts helped reverse racial vaccine disparities

Mississippi’s efforts helped reverse racial vaccine disparities
Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 8:21 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi is one of just ten states where more Black residents have taken the COVID-19 vaccine than their White neighbors.

Currently, 52 percent of Black Mississippians have now gotten at least one COVID vaccine dose. Meanwhile, 46% are fully vaccinated.

Both around 10 percent higher than the national averages in the same population.

But just less than a year ago, there were concerns that not enough of the shots were being given to African Americans. It’s been a team effort from more than just the docs to reverse the trends.

Information overload and COVID fatigue combined is what African American leaders say was a perfect storm for confusion and hesitancy as the vaccines first became available.

Pastors like Dr. Jerry Young participated in events to show their congregations and communities that they believed getting the shot was a matter of following the commandment to love they neighbor.

“People don’t necessarily respond to projects and causes,” explained Dr. Young, Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church and President of the National Baptist Convention, USA. “They respond to people. That is people they trust, people they believe in, people they have a relationship with. And that’s why it was so important. It was so important for us to be involved in that, because you’re in a position of trust.”

African American doctors did the same and hosted vaccination events and meeting people where they were.

“The biggest thing that we saw was the amount of misinformation,” said internal medicine specialist Dr. Justin Turner. “And this information where people were, you know, getting information from social media, as opposed to getting it from, you know, their primary care doctor, which we realize a lot of people don’t have one, which was another problem.”

Time at the barbershop changed even when they were cleared to be back in the building. Barber Damion Portis noticed.

“It made it to where the communication was more quality,” said Portis. “So, it wasn’t just typical barbershop banter. But people were talking from a real place.”

And often times they were talking about COVID. It sometimes opened the door to sharing the facts. He’s got information on hand now. And still thinks there’s work to be done as the new variant spreads.

“It’s all over the place sometimes,” noted Portis. “But I would say with some people, they feel good enough. And they, like, look, I don’t know if I can go back around to that. I got other ones to sit in here and they lay you know, man, I got one more weekend, I get my booster. I got, you know, I can’t wait to get- I want to get my booster early, you know, because I like feeling a sense of normalcy.”

To view the latest COVID vaccination data from MSDH, click HERE.

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