How Richmond plans to address disparities in vaccination rates

Posted at 11:50 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 23:50:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond Henrico Health District is reporting African American kids and teens are vaccinated at a far lower rate than white and Hispanic teenagers,

The numbers show that about 80% of white kids and teens are vaccinated, about 70% of Latino teenagers are vaccinated and about 30% African American children in Richmond have gotten the vaccine thus far.

To fight the disparity, the Richmond-Henrico Health District says they'll be implementing a three-part action plan:

  • Transparency and data sharing: RHHD will inform the general public on this disparity. RHHD will also provide special communication to key stakeholders (namely schools, faith communities, pediatricians, and parents) on the disparity so data trends can inform their work.
  • Outreach and education: RHHD will expand its partnerships with afterschool programs, youth employers, sports leagues, youth group homes, and more to provide youth an opportunity to ask questions and receive accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Vaccination opportunities: RHHD will partner with schools and other youth-focused partners to offer COVID-19 vaccinations onsite. RHHD will also continue to monitor areas with low vaccine uptake to offer COVID-19 vaccines in those areas.

Jackie Lawrence, RHHD's Director of Health Equity, said a lack of resources for some parents and distrust of healthcare and government systems, among other reasons, have likely played a role in the disparity.

“Low vaccination rates are one of many ways that racism in the medical community has a long-standing impact on how folks access lifesaving healthcare services," Lawrence said.

CBS6 spoke with a local pastor working to combat the disparity.

"I don't think we can discount anyone's feelings about vaccination. I think all we can do is continually present the data. The overwhelming majority of people who get really sick, and who died are the unvaccinated. There's no getting around that. And that number, unfortunately, is disproportionately African American," said Pastor Ralph Hodge of Second Baptist Church on Richmond's Southside.

Pastor Hodge is partnering with the health department to host weekly testing and vaccination clinics at his church. You can get tested every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and vaccinated between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Second Baptist Church is located on Broad Rock Blvd in South Richmond.

“RHHD will continue building relationships with our neighbors, embedding vaccination opportunities within local African American communities, and developing partnerships with community leaders. This disparity weighs heavily on us and we are ready to keep showing up for our local communities,” said Amy Popovich, Nurse Manager at RHHD.

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