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Advocates hoping to get more members of minority communities vaccinated

Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 7:23 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As demand for vaccines slows down, advocates are pushing to getting hesitant pockets of communities to sign up for a shot.

The push is strongest in communities of color where the coronavirus has proven to hit the hardest.

Marvella Ford, Ph.D., is a member of the Black Faculty Group at MUSC. They have teamed up with the Hispanic/Latino Faculty Group to combat vaccine hesitancy in their respective communities.

Ford says they are working to increase awareness and advocate for vaccination. To do that, they’re meeting people to answer questions and dispel misinformation.

“If we do not increase the number of people getting vaccinated in our state and our nation, we will likely face another COVID-19 surge,” Ford said. “I think the way we do that is through relationships, and that is relationships with community leaders, community organizations. We’re going where community members are meeting virtually, going to their evening meetings, their Saturday meetings and letting them know that their questions are important, and we want to provide answers.”

Data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control shows just 17 percent of the vaccinated population is black. That stands in stark contrast to the 27 percent of the state population made up by the same demographic

“It doesn’t surprise me but it’s certainly something we are working really hard to address,” Ford said. “When we look at black communities, we really want to build trust.”

She says one way of building trust is to enlist trusted members of the community to publicly get vaccinated and act as vaccine ambassadors.

“Having ambassadors is critical,” Ford said. “People want to see if someone got vaccinated and see whether any of their arms or legs fell off. Then they’ll say if they seem to be okay ‘I think I can do it too.’”

The black community is not the only minority community underrepresented in vaccination statistics.

The Hispanic population is significantly smaller but shows a similar level of vaccine hesitancy. The community makes up about 6 percent of the state population but only about 3 percent of those vaccinated.

Pedro De Armas is the editor-in-chief of El Informador Newspaper, a Spanish language newspaper in the Charleston area. He says a language barrier can be an issue with some in the community unsure about the specifics of the various vaccines and clinics.

However, language is not the only barrier.

“The other challenge in the community, the Latino community, is if they are they going to be asked for documents, legal document, or if they are here legally,” De Armas said. “It’s a huge deal for the community because they might feel a little bit of a threat of going to get vaccinated thinking they are going to be asked for their green card or resident ID.”

De Armas says he works with other groups to dispel misinformation and to set up clinics geared specifically toward the Hispanic community.

“We are here to spread the message and tell everyone all they need is a photo id, pretty much, and then show up,” De Armas said.

The next vaccination clinic specifically advertised for the Latino community is May 4. It’s a partnership with Fetter Health Care, Charleston Hispanic Association, Latin Groove, Charleston Community Impact and the Community Resource Center. It will be at 4870 Piedmont Ave in Charleston and will go from 9 p.m. - 2 p.m.

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