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Vaccine access is the key to fighting COVID-19 in the Black community

COVID-19 vaccine. (303011)
COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Daniel Schludi

There’s a continued push by Charles Drew University (CDU) and community health leaders to encourage Black people to take the COVID-19 vaccine in South Los Angeles, Watts and Compton. Over the past 30 days, health experts have been especially focused on improving vaccine access in the Black community.

“Vaccine hesitancy is starting to not be the issue,” said Dr. Sharon Cobb, director of the RN-BSN Program at the Mervyn M. Dymally School of Nursing. “It’s now becoming an issue of where can I get the vaccine.”

Dr. David M. Carlisle, CDU’s President & CEO. (299414)

“We’re trying to transform herd mentality into herd immunity,” said Dr. David M. Carlisle, who serves as the president and CEO of Charles Drew University.

Carlisle explained researchers ultimately want to have 70 to 80 percent of the population vaccinated to have true herd immunity, which would severely limit the ability of the coronavirus to spread.

“Testing numbers in the state of California are going down,” Dr. Carlisle said. “But there’s still a role for testing.”

The virtual community forum, titled “Testing & Vaccines: Essential Partners in the Fight Against COVID-19”, was hosted by Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science March 25. CDU created the ongoing

series to keep residents and community stakeholders updated on the school’s efforts surrounding educating the community about why testing and vaccines are essential in the fight against COVID-19.

The panel also highlighted a health center that is successfully distributing COVID-19 vaccines in South Los Angeles.

“We are currently vaccinating thousands of people (every day) ,” said Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, who works in family and community medicine as a Global Injury Epidemiologist at the Kedren Community Health Center on Avalon Boulevard in South LA.“We’re hoping to continue our rollout into Watts and Compton.”

Abraham said it was important to break down barriers like cost, language and transportation. The vaccine is free, language translators are available, as are free rides to and from vaccine appointments.

“We’ve broken down every barrier that stood between people and getting the vaccine,” Abraham said.

Health leaders said it is important that children are not left behind in the ongoing discussion to get Black and Brown people vaccinated.

“Children do get COVID-19,” said Dr. Oliver T. Brooks, the Chief Medical Officer of the Watts HealthCare Corporation. “When vaccines are generally developed… it’s easier to do clinical trials on adults.”

“The death rate for children is very low,” Brooks added, before explaining why vaccinating teachers and school staff members is extremely important in the push to reopen schools in LA County.

Cobb explained why the push to find community ambassadors, particularly in the faith-based community, is also essential. He said leaders in the “Black Church” have an important role to play, as health experts target vaccine distribution in public and low-income housing.

Next steps will also include mobile vaccination units in the Black community.

“All (three) vaccines prevent death. We give all three vaccines (at Kedren),” said Abraham. referring to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“Get whatever vaccine you can get,” Brooks added.